First and Last Lines: From opening question to dawning peace

First and Last Lines: From opening question to dawning peace

In Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, literary agent Donald Maass offers advice on the importance of the first and last lines of a book. That first line is what draws the reader in, often while browsing in a bookstore. The last line helps shape a reader’s final impression of a book and perhaps leads them to seek out more work by the same author. According to Maass, first lines should do one of three things to create the desire to…

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Getting the Most from Your Critique Group: Part II

Getting the Most from Your Critique Group: Part II

Because I have a new book coming out on March X, my publisher asked me to write a post for the Inspired Quill blog on how to get the most from a critique group. I’ve belonged to a lot of different crit groups over the years and was happy to share whatever bits of wisdom I’d picked up. After I wrote that post, though, I realized that I’d only talked about how to get the most from being critiqued. But…

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Advice to Myself: Write True

Advice to Myself: Write True

Sometimes I put sticky notes to myself around my computer screen. They’re advice I know I need to write well. One I have up often is “Write True.” To Write True Is To Write Well The value of writing true has been brought home to me by listening to audio books as I drive. In them, I find that good writing overcomes a lot of drawbacks. By “good writing,” I don’t mean fancy writing. I mean things like interesting voice…

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Rising Action: An Essential Element of Plot

Rising Action: An Essential Element of Plot

I recently read Lionheart by Ben Kane. This is historical fiction that is, unsurprisingly, about Richard the Lionhearted. The book is well written enough that I finished it. However, reading it made me realize the problems presented by some kinds of plot lines when the author tries to achieve rising action. Repeated plot elements Richard the Lionhearted is a fascinating historical character. We’re probably all familiar with him at least from tales about Robin Hood, who struggled against oppression in…

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My Ten Favorite 2020 Reads

My Ten Favorite 2020 Reads

Here are the ten books I enjoyed reading most in 2020. Most of them were published in 2020 also, but some are earlier. I tried to explain what made each book special to me, but sometimes the appeal of a book is mysterious. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore I reread this, the third book in Cashore’s Graceling series, because a sequel is coming out in January. I enjoyed it more this time that I did the first time I read it, I…

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What makes an outstanding book?

What makes an outstanding book?

Every year, we see a spate of lists of the best or outstanding books for that year. Why do some books land in that category while other perfectly fine books don’t?  What makes a book outstanding? Outstanding can, of course, mean different things. Most easily it means big sales. If that’s the case then a lot of readers responded to that book, which is not to be sneezed at. A second meaning for “outstanding” might be that while the book…

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Teacher’s Guide for FINDERS KEEPER

Teacher’s Guide for FINDERS KEEPER

Finders Keepers is designed for middle-grade readers (10 and up). Given how stressed out teachers are these days, I offer this teacher’s guide. I put the questions together with help from my daughter-in-law who is a reading specialist. I hope they’re useful to you. SYNOPSIS A whisper in the dark draws 12-year-old Cade to a hole in the paving where he finds a beautiful triangular stone. When he takes it home as a gift for Mum, she and his older…

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Doing NaNoWriMo – the right way

Doing NaNoWriMo – the right way

Today’s blog post is once again written by Pamela Merritt, author of the forthcoming The Cat’s Pajamas and host of the Way of Cats blog. Doing NaNoWriMo – the right way Since 1999, increasing numbers of writers have been participating in the drafting marathon known as National Novel Writing Month. With a goal of 50,000 words, NaNoWriMo can be a dreaded, daunting, or delightful experience. It’s about our expectations, and our preparations. Because we have to be ready. My own…

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Writer’s Block Tricks

Writer’s Block Tricks

Today’s blog is a guest post from Pamela Merritt, who offers advice on how to get around writer’s block. Visit Pamela at her popular blog and check out her book on Amazon. Take it away, Pamela! ______________ Yes, we can break a Writer’s Block with tricks. We want to trick our minds into cooperating. Why aren’t our minds cooperating now? Don’t they want to be “on the same page”? Sure, they do. We might be the one blocking them. Here’s…

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Writing Advice

Writing Advice

On August 9, 2020, the New York Times Book Review ran a piece by Amitava Kumar called “Literary Advice.” Kumar is a writer who sometimes asks other writers to sign their book for him. When he does, he asks them to add a piece of writing advice. The Times piece includes some of what the other writers said. Here are the quotes that spoke particularly to me. Maybe they’ll resonate with you too. Read the masters and, at least occasionally,…

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