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Yikes! I don’t have enough words!

Yikes! I don’t have enough words!

Every writer is going to be different, but I tend to write first drafts that are very bare bones. I find a first draft painful to write so I try to get it down quickly, planning to revise. As a consequence, my first drafts are often short of the 60,000 words that are usually the minimum for a young adult novel. I know that some of that brevity is due to things I have to work in later. One is…

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The Best Advice I Ever Got

The Best Advice I Ever Got

Back when I was writing academic books and articles, I conducted a five-year ethnographic project at an engineering center. My area is professional communication, so I hung around the center watching engineers try to communicate in their natural habitat. It was a lot of fun, and eventually I wrote a book (Writing Power) based on the material I collected. Someone I knew edited a series for SUNY Press, and he invited me to submit it to them. He sent the…

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On Writing Groups

On Writing Groups

Over the years, I’ve been a member of a number of writing groups that provide me with understanding, support, and most important, feedback on my work. Feedback helps me notice places to improve my writing that I’m too close to see myself. If you’re looking for feedback, you could try a writers group. Ideally, the members would be writers who are at the same level or above you in skill. They’d be kind and aim to make one another better…

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On Writer Anxiety

On Writer Anxiety

Every writer I know experiences moments of anxiety about their writing. They’re sure it’s terrible. They’re horrified at the idea of anyone else seeing it. They know they’re a failure and no agent/publisher/reader will ever want to read this story. Sometimes people call this the Imposter Syndrome. We conclude we’re faking our roles as writers and someone is soon going to find out. If the anxiety becomes strong enough, it turns into writer’s block, and the person can’t write at…

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What Carries Over from Academic Writing to Writing Fiction

What Carries Over from Academic Writing to Writing Fiction

The first writing I ever had published wasn’t a piece of fiction. It was an academic article, the first of many I wrote while teaching in an English Department and conducting research on the communication practices of engineers. You might think that other than both being written in English, those academic articles would not have prepared me for writing fiction. And in some ways, you’d be right. And yet, well beyond mastery of language, I learned at least three things…

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Where do you get your ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

One of the most common questions writers are asked is where they get their ideas. For me, different books begin in different ways. Usually, I get ideas by playing “what if?” It’s something I can do deliberately. I read something or hear a news item or even a commercial and ask myself if there’s some way it could be twisted to create a good story. Asking what if? That’s how I got the idea for The Wind Reader. I was…

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How to Deliver Backstory

How to Deliver Backstory

Writing has ruined me as a reader. It used to be that when I stumbled in a book, I thought it was my fault. Now I usually blame the writer. I notice and nitpick things I used to let slide. One of those things is delivering backstory. What Is Backstory? Backstory is whatever happened before the book starts, so all books have backstory. In science fiction and fantasy, backstory sometimes also include information about the world that the character already…

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