This is me- the writing goddess Melanie

This is me- the writing goddess Melanie
The writing goddess at leisure

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ten rules for writing fiction | Books | The Guardian

Ten rules for writing fiction | Books | The Guardian: "Ten rules for writing fiction
Get an accountant, abstain from sex and similes, cut, rewrite, then cut and rewrite again – if all else fails, pray 6
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Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."

3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

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4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" ... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.


8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing is published next month by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Diana Athill

1 Read it aloud to yourself because that's the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).


2 Cut (perhaps that should be CUT): only by having no ­inessential words can every essential word be made to count.

3 You don't always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they'd be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect – it's the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)"

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First time out: Publishing tips for new authors - The Writer

First time out: Publishing tips for new authors - The Writer: "First time out: Publishing tips for new authors

How much education does a writer need to know before getting that first book published and on the shelves?
By Julie Krug | Published: June 23, 2016

Jennifer Udden

Sifting through books or scanning the internet for information can leave a new writer overwhelmed about the talent and expertise needed for publication.

The more information, the more the publishing lexicon increases. Literary agents, editors, publicists. Publishing houses and imprints. Manuscripts, galleys and edits. Advanced reader copies, contracts, copyrights and dust jacket quotes. Marketing, book tours and royalties.

How much education does a writer need to know before getting that first book published and on the shelves?

Literary agent Jennifer Udden has been helping writers publish their work  for the past six years. She works for Larry Goldblatt, LLC in New York City, where she also teaches a publishing course at Gotham Writers Workshop, the bricks-and-mortar establishment that offers both in-house and online writing classes. She advises writers to solicit feedback from “beta readers” and “critique partners” before researching and querying agents.

Author Celeste Ng echoes this sentiment. “It’s important to understand the overall publishing process, to know what each of the major figures – agent, editor, publicist, and so on – can and should do for you,” she says.

Udden also offers up some practical, cautionary advice when you’re researching the internet, noting the differences between traditional publishing versus the DIY, self-publishing route.

“The one lesson to keep in mind is: Money flows to the authors in traditional publishing,” says Udden. “Any press that asks you to shell out money for getting your book on shelves,” she warns, “…that’s probably not a deal that’s going to be the best for your book in the long term.”

Udden instructs students at Gotham to ask questions when researching agents, editors and publishing houses. “What has the agent sold? Is he or she at a reputable company? If the agents haven’t had sales, do they have support and mentoring?” Since most publishing houses don’t take unsolicited material, getting the right agent is crucial.

Udden offered the following instructions for the first-time published:

DO keep an open mind.
DO commit to your writing and your career and continue refining your craft. If the first thing you query doesn’t land, take a look at the feedback you’ve received and apply it to something new.
DO stay positive.
DON’T pay an agent a “reading fee” or any kind of up-front fee.
DON’T sign a contract unagented and without making sure you’re getting industry standard terms, at the least. Understand what you’re signing!

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$2000 Masters Review Summer Short Story Award and Agency Review - The Writer

$2000 Masters Review Summer Short Story Award and Agency Review - The Writer: "$2000 Masters Review Summer Short Story Award and Agency Review


Friday, July 15, 2016


Fantasy, Fiction, General, Nonfiction, Science Fiction

Entry Fees

$20 per entry


$2000 and publication to the winner. $200, $100 and publication to second and third place stories, respectively.

Agency review by:
Laura Biagi from Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. in New York
Amy Williams of the Amy Williams Agency.


– 6000 word limit
– Fiction only
– No writing preferences. Just your best work
– Emerging Writers Only (have not published a novel at the time of submission. You may have a book under contract. Short story collections are not considered novels and therefore you qualify. We welcome work from self-published writers.)
– Previously unpublished work only
– Multiple and simultaneous submissions are allowed, but please notify us if your story is accepted elsewhere
– International submissions allowed

Contact Information


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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding Ways to Stay Focused on your Writing

There are many distractions that seem to steal us away from our one true love- writing.  Life happens when we are trying to get that next sentence down on paper.  Day to day mundane tasks such as unloading the dishwasher can steal our attention.  Here are some tools to use that is sure to draw you back to your first love.
1. Join writer's groups.  They will give you the motivation to keep writing and accountability to make it good.  In addition, you can receive priceless pearls of wisdom on a wealth of topics from the writing process to the promotion of the literary art that you have created.  Tips and advice from Veterans in the craft can be a helpful tool to keep you right on track.  Learn tried and true methods and avoid the pitfalls they have fallen into and have dug themselves out of.
2.  Join Critique groups.  While similar to writers groups they are different in that they read what you have written and offer suggestions for improvement,  Many times a fresh pair of eyes can catch rookie mistakes in your literary piece.  Sometimes a fresh perspective can drive your story in a different direction.  Perhaps you thought your story was about the baseball player and through feedback realize that your real story is his relationship with his family.  Sometimes the back story is really the true story.  A critique member's suggestion might send your story in a new direction.
3.  Surround yourself with like minded people.  It has been said "Show me your friends and I'll show you, you."  We are influenced by the people who are around us.  It's a proven fact.  Do you want to be more involved in your writing?  If you answered yes, the answer is simple.  Surround yourself with other writers.  Find what works for them.  Where do they get their ideas?  Maybe you have a friend who is having a lot of success with writing articles and getting them published online.  Perhaps, they can steer you in the direction to getting your pieces in the right hands.  
As writers, there are tools available if we know where to find them.  Arm yourself with the right tools.  You wouldn't show up to build a house with tools a mechanic would use.  You would bring hammers, nails and a saw to the house site.  It is the same with writing.  Bring the right tools and you are unstoppable.  Keep writing, my fellow writers!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

7 Playful Techniques to Shatter Your Writer’s Block

7 Playful Techniques to Shatter Your Writer’s Block: "5. Dive for treasure

Go to a store, any store, that your character feels drawn to, and pick out an object. While pretending to be your character, describe the item with your eyes closed. Feel it all over. Get all the tactile sensations you can. Try rapping it with your fingers or knocking on it to hear the sounds it makes. Lick it if possible. Finally, open your eyes and examine the object. Describe it using all your senses, and then turn it into a story or a poem. Or fit it into a story you’re currently working on. In what way might it play a significant role? If you don’t want to buy anything, go through the stuff in your home, and pick something that appeals to your character.

6. Prognosticate the future

Get out some crayons, colored pencils, markers, or watercolors—whatever you have. Tapping into the visual centers of your brain helps spark your creativity. Draw or paint: stick figures, abstractions, whatever works—to illustrate the kind of life you think your character will be living 10, 20, or 30 years beyond the end of the story you’re writing. Or draw the next scene in your story.

7. Hopscotch through alternate realities

Write out 50 endings or openings for your story. Try radically different plot lines or slight variations. It’ll get you nice and tired. That’s when your brain is most likely to catch fire (figuratively, I hasten to point out). That’s when you’re most likely to let loose with brilliant ideas. So just give yourself a little nudge, and keep going.

Open sesame!

Whenever you feel stale, stagnant, world-weary, and dreary, try one or two of the above techniques, or try them all. Think they’re odd? Skeptical that they’ll work? Consider what Carl Sagan said: “It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected.”

So. Write fast. Write loose. Open your creative floodgates. Go!

Do you have any techniques that help shatter your writer’s block? Let us know in the comments.


Play with one or more of the seven techniques. Take fifteen minutes, and write down the results. Post your results in the comments, and leave feedback on a few practices by other writers."

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4 Playful Techniques to Shatter Your Writer’s Block

7 Playful Techniques to Shatter Your Writer’s Block: "7 Playful Techniques to Shatter Your Writer’s Block

Without further ado, let’s review seven techniques that will refresh, rejuvenate, and ignite your brain. You’re free to modify, mix, and match to suit your needs. I only ask that you give yourself the freedom to play, no matter where, when, or how the spirit moves you.

1. Get a brain transplant

I don’t mean that literally. Just pretend you’re one of the characters from your short story or novel. Or, pick a character from a movie or a book other than your own. You’re going to see things through that character’s eyes. I put myself in the skin of Torin, a teenage cyborg boy from a dystopian future, to get to know him better.

You can start by scrutinizing everything at home, but I urge you to go out if you have the time. In my case, I try to see, hear, and touch everything from Torin’s point of view.

For variation, you can have your character become your imaginary friend du jour and have a (silent) running conversation as you point things out to your friend.

2. Confess your sins

For this, it’s best if you can go somewhere with trees. A forest would be ideal. When you arrive, smell the air, and feel its essence. In Japan, immersing yourself in woodlands is called forest bathing (Shinrin Yoku). It’s a venerated, self-restorative practice. It’ll clear your mind and open it up to fresh ideas.

Now, let your character lead you to a tree, and place his hands on its trunk. When he feels ready, have him confess his deepest, darkest secret to the tree. Let him throw himself on the knotty mercy of bark. Record the confession, or write it down.

Why talk to a tree? It’s another way to mute that critical voice. Besides, trees don’t judge; and there’s something calming about them.

If this is all too “woo,” just interview your character, no props required. But that’s not nearly as fun or as effective.

3. Become a shameless snoop

Go to a public place where you can eavesdrop on people unobserved. Take notes. Depending on circumstances, you may struggle to listen in on just one conversation. In that case, write down snippets of whatever you hear from different groups of people and stitch them together. Then use what you’ve heard as a springboard to write whatever you fancy. Maybe a love story, an alien abduction, or the next scene in your novel.

4. Take an aural Rorschach

Find a song in a foreign language that you are totally unfamiliar with. Download it, or borrow a CD from the library. Sit somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Scribble down what the words sound like to you. Free-associate. Turn the result into a story or a poem. To illustrate, here’s an excerpt of a poem I came up with:

Plight of the Constant Piglet

Hey, Jimmie! Speak piglet, do you?
No, just a little German, Mein Kampf.
I hate to be gauche but do you realize that your
Companion is a piglet with a papier toupee?
Hey, what do you take me for, an idiot savant?

Utter nonsense, as you can tell. And that’s the beauty of it."

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Monday, March 9, 2015

3 Ways to Get Your Next Story Idea

3 Ways to Get Your Next Story Idea: "3 Ways to Get Your Next Story Idea

by Emily Wenstrom | 23 Comments
Story ideas often come to us almost out of thin air—whether from an overheard conversation in a coffee shop, or just a random thought that pops into your head in the shower. But other times, you’re ready to write a new story and all that you’ve got is the blank page in front of you.

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt (Creative Commons) Adapted by The Write Practice.
That’s okay! There are a number of tried and true methods to jumpstart your brain and draw those story ideas out. Here are my three go-tos:

1. Free Write

Grab a pencil and three sheets of paper, and start writing down whatever comes to your mind. Literally.

If your hand is tired from pulling the pencil across the page, write it down. If you think this is stupid and you can’t believe you’re doing it, write it down. Whatever.

But start with your goal in mind, stated as a question: “What can I write a story about?”

One rule: Do your freewriting by hand on real paper, not on a computer. Something about handwriting forces your brain to slow down and quiet a little.

This exercise takes about 15 minutes, and I never come out of a freewriting session empty handed.

2. Wordmapping

Open the dictionary to a random page, point your finger to a random word, and write it down in the middle of a piece of paper. Set a timer for five minutes. Ready? Go!

Using that word as a jumping off point, map out as many different thoughts from that word as you can. Don’t worry if they’re too small, too big, too ridiculous, too dumb, have no way to tie into a story.

The goal here is quantity, not quality, so turn off your inner editor and just keep writing down the thoughts. As you start building up threads around your anchor word, feel free to do the same to one of your spinoff words too, as they inspire you.

When the timer dings, look over the story idea web you’ve created. I promise there are seeds of new stories in there, so find them.

3. Writing prompts

There’s a ton of great writing prompt sources out there, from websites to entire books of them. Use them! They can stretch your thinking in new directions and give you story ideas you might not find on your own.

The Write Practice offers a prompt right here on the blog weekly, or check out our 14 Prompts ebook. Another one of my favorites is DIY MFA’s Writer Igniter (full disclosure, I contribute to DIY MFA).

Whatever You Do, Don’t Let Creative Blocks Slow You Down

Sometimes story ideas come to us on their own, but when they don’t, don’t let it stop you from creating great stories—just find a way to jumpstart the process.

Keep these brain-boosting methods on hand, and you’ll never have to be pushed around by the blank page again.

How do you come up with your story ideas? Let us know in the comments section.


Pick a tactic from this post and take it for a test run. When you’re done, flesh out your results into a story concept.

Share the method you chose, how you felt about it, and your story idea below in the comments—and be sure to give feedback to others, too!"

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