Q: I have a terrific story to tell, but it didn't actually happen to me. Is it possible to write with authenticity about something you haven't experienced firsthand? A: Many great books are written by authors who seem to have nothing in common with their character's experiences. Different gender, … [Read more...]
The blog for writers
The Book Deal
Too much vertical space in your manuscript?
In filmmaking, vertical space is shorthand for script pages with lots of white and not a lot of words. For scriptwriters it's the rule. A script has dialogue, brief notes for action on the screen and not much else. It makes for quick reading and ensures a kind of textual scarcity that directors … [Read more...]
How to grab, delight or shock your readers right from the start
"Every time mama came down on that shabby floor, the bullet lodged in my stomach felt like a hot poker." Claude Brown and I hunted through his manuscript for two days to find that moment and move it to the opening of his classic Harlem memoir Manchild in the Promised Land. We wanted to detail … [Read more...]
Happy Birthday Tom Robbins! Time to revisit your advice to writers
I’ve never known a great author to be more generous with useful advice about the craft of writing than Tom Robbins. If you’ve yet to discover this fabulous author, Robbins has written many bestselling novels including Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All and … [Read more...]
Ask the Editor: Can I become a better writer?
Q: Every rejection letter I get says there’s something wrong with my writing. Can I really get better at this? A: Yes, you can! Having edited hundreds of writers, I know for a fact that even the most seasoned, successful writers read, study, revise and rewrite, use a professional developmental … [Read more...]
Ask the editor: An agent said my novel needs emotional glue. Help!
Q. An agent said my novel is missing emotional glue. Like it doesn’t stick together. What is emotional glue and how do I get it into my story? A. Emotional glue reveals a character’s internal reactions, ruminations, and anticipated responses to the dialogue and action of the story. It's the … [Read more...]
What writers can learn from Barry Eisler
It's inspiring when a successful author goes out of his way to help others in the craft of writing. Barry Eisler is one of those good guys. Though he'd probably rather be known as one baaad dude. He's a one-time CIA operative, a judo black belt and an intellectual property attorney, who's … [Read more...]
Ask the editor: Trusting the reader
Q: How can i be sure my readers will understand my core message, my purpose for writing the book in the first place – unless I help out with a little commentary or explanation? A: Authors need to respect their readers and allow them their own reactions to the narrative. This issue comes up … [Read more...]
Quick: How many POVs in an “I” narrative?
OK, it's a trick question. The answer is that every "I" narrative has not one, but two points of view. Think about it: You - the writer - embody the second POV. You stand behind the curtain of literary creativity, directing everything that happens in the story; what to include and what not, what … [Read more...]