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Category: Writing

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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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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What Makes a Strong Female Character?

What Makes a Strong Female Character?

In a recent article in Washington Monthly, Nancy LeTourneau wrote about how the web of ideas we have inherited from the patriarchy had distorted our idea of what it means to be a strong man. What’s disturbing to me is that, in young adult fantasy fiction, the distorted notion of strength also warps how we imagine a strong woman. We have moved along from writing the female character as a damsel in distress, but instead we often borrow the limited notion…

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Remember the Dog

Remember the Dog

I’m drafting a book tentatively called The Trickster. Its central character is Dilly, who appears as a secondary character in The Wind Reader. There, she’s nearly always accompanied by her dog, Tuc. I can’t remember why I originally gave Dilly a dog. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. And Tuc turned out to be useful to the three street kids who mobbed up together in that book. He guarded them. He hunted the rats in the abandoned…

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How to write disabled characters

How to write disabled characters

A hopeful current trend in fiction is the press for diverse characters. I’ve mostly seen this call for inclusiveness aimed at diversity in sexual or racial identity, but we need to open up the kind of characters we read and write even further. If we want to write inclusive books, we need to include disabled characters. On June 27, my publisher, Inspired Quill, will release The Wysman, a sequel to The Wind Reader. The Wind Readerfeatured a group of three street kids: Doniver, Jarka,…

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Book trailer for THE WYSMAN

Book trailer for THE WYSMAN

My fabulous publisher, Inspired Quill, made a book trailer for The Wysman. It makes even me want to read the book! THE WYSMAN is available for pre-order and will release on June 27. “The Grabber is just a fright tale.” Former street kid Jarka was born with a crooked foot and uses a crutch, but that no longer matters now that he’s an apprentice Wysman, training to advise the king. When poor kids start to go missing from the city’s streets, though,…

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On Interviewing Characters

On Interviewing Characters

One thing I sometimes do in the name of character development is interview my characters. I have a list of questions I reuse that fit my genre, plus I add some questions that seem right for the particular character. It’s possible to conduct an interview as part of the preparation for drafting, but I get to know my characters by watching them act. So I usually wait until I finish my first draft. Below are some of the questions I…

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How Not To Write Talking Heads

How Not To Write Talking Heads

Dialogue is a crucial element in fiction. A writer uses it to convey information, reveal character, or show conflict. But the characters delivering that dialogue should feel like real, physical people in a physical world. In other words, they shouldn’t look like talking heads. Action tags Typically, writers try to avoid talking heads by interspersing character actions between the lines of dialogue. For example, the characters may be sharing a meal, so they take a drink or cut a slice…

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Writing During a Pandemic

Writing During a Pandemic

You want to know what I’ve learned about writing during a pandemic? It’s hard. And for me at least, maybe impossible in any sustained way. That’s what I’ve learned. For the first couple of weeks, I felt guilty because I had all this extra time while I was locked down at home, and yet I was producing nothing much longer than a tweet. But then, last night, at my weekly writer group meeting, now conducted on Zoom, someone else said…

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Overcoming Writer’s Block

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Sometimes writing is easy. You’re in the zone. The words pour out. Good words! But sometimes, writing is so difficult it feels impossible. You have the dreaded writer’s block. There can be different reasons for writer’s block, and overcoming it depends on why you have it. Fear, boredom, and unarticulated problems with the book can all play a role. Here are some suggestions that have helped me manage to keep writing. Fear Writing sometimes feels like undressing in public. You…

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