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The Lost Wax Process

The Lost Wax Process

Today’s post is by a guest, John Manchester, author of the mystery thriller Never Speak. He writes about how composing music and writing fiction both seem to him to share a kind of creativity he compares to the lost wax process. The post first appeared on John’s blog in May. If you click on over there, you’ll find other interesting posts. Take it away, John! __________________________________ If you’re born a lemon-head, make lemonade. I. Growing up my parents often smiled,…

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Problematic Plot Elements

Problematic Plot Elements

Judging by drafts I’ve critiqued lately, two commonly used plot elements automatically come with problems because they tend to be low tension. These are meetings and travel. Meetings It can be tempting to deliver exposition by staging a meeting between characters. The meeting can be formally held around a table or casually placed at a campsite. It mostly doesn’t matter. A meeting is a meeting. How riveting do you find meetings in everyday life? Not very? Then why write them…

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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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