How to Write, Revise & Finish Your Novel in 2017, Really: Part I

help writing fiction

It’s that time of year when many of us are looking forward to 2017, evaluating what matters to us, and making our resolutions. If writing and finishing your novel tops your list, here are some tips to help you write your best book. I use these steps to write my own fiction and I’ve just finished the 1st draft of my newest novel, working title, The Book of Riddles. Write your 1st draft quickly, ideally within 3 to 6 months. Key to this process of drafting is to refrain from editing your 1st draft! I know that makes some writers howl with …

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Bring Your Story to Life

Gift your characters and their worlds and their journeys of dilemma, conflict, and transformation generously.

Emphasis on transformation.

Of course well-told stories have the power to simply entertain us. But the best stories also have the power to transform by offering new vision, new insight and awareness. They wake us up. And yes that is a tall order.

I watched two films at the Regal 14 with my ten-year-old daughter this summer. Both were major studio productions with big budgets.

The first, a very recent box office hit—a save-the-universe archetypal saga—featured a reluctant, off-beat hero and his vagabond “knights”, one of whom was female, with green skin and a fighting spirit. Make no mistake, she could kick ass with the best and the worst of the guys. The film was loud, action-packed, entertaining and the same ole’, same ole’ story. My daughter loved it! (more…)

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Scared to Write Your Book? Let Your Fears Be Your Guides to Success

Afraid of writing your book because…? Go ahead and jot down a list of your worst fears. Scared of dying? Scared of failing? Scared of finding out you can’t write your way out of a paper bag? (Who needs to do that, anyway?) Scared of hurting others with your words? Scared of contaminating the world with darkness? Scared you’ll find out you’re a monster? Scared you’re just too scared to do anything? Fears. We all have them. You can’t put them in a bottle and cork it. You can’t reason with them. But you can shift your relationship to your …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #19)

Okay, for today’s tip, here I go again, talking about staying curious about what your protagonist wants. And, remember, our fictional heroes are extreme–they go after what they want with an intensity that can be frightening and invigorating and freeing. They are bigger than life and we can watch them slip and slide and struggle and push and yearn and obsess to the extreme, whether their story is a tragedy or a comedy. So back to the want. I wrote a very personal blog post a few years ago about going through the death of my marriage and how the …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #14)

When it comes to understanding the story you are writing, teachers stress the importance of knowing what your hero desires, yearns for, desperately wants! They will probably remind you that her goal (want) is something that can be measured externally, in the world. It’s also a very good idea, they say, to know the meaning your hero attaches to getting what she wants. This meaning is internal, having to do with her most vulnerable emotional wounds. Example: She will do almost anything to get that promotion because then she’ll feel validated and successful (instead of feeling like the failure in her …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #11)

How well do you know your significant other? Do you know where and when your best friend went to middle school? Do you know your sibling’s deepest secrets? Do you know if your mother had a first love before she met your father? Or if your older cousin  dropped out of sight and out of touch for several years? We are often attracted to people because they hold some mystery for us and we find that challenging, frustrating, and alluring.So, you ask, how does that apply to my novel? Don’t aim to or pretend to know everything about your main …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #8)

Hey, it’s NaNoWriMo day #8 so let everything go to hell! We’ve all had those days when things keep going wrong–and wrong–and more damn wrong! The events might be big (getting fired from your job) or small (someone cutting in front of you when it’s your turn to order your latte). At some point we feel so cornered we explode and let loose our rant! Maybe we’re alone and maybe we’re not. Maybe we’re ranting in someone’s face. Hopefully we’re not threatening anyone with bodily harm. Confession: I’ve pulled over in my car so I could rant without censoring myself …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #6)

Action is vital in fiction. But the action must fit the story. If you are writing a gentle love story you will probably not include car chases and IEDs. However you might include a hero who obsesses over a “potential” or “lost” love to the point of stalking. “Really, I was just picking up my dry-cleaning and can I help it if you work next door?” Details are also a vital part of bringing a fictional world and its inhabitants to life–however a wise writer chooses dynamic details, meaning those details that reveal something about the inner and outer life …

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#NaNoWriMo2015 — Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #1)

Get to the heart of your story-it lives inside your hero: know what she wants, what drives her, and why. Give her a goal that matters. Know her deepest wound.  Show us her fight to reach her goal and make sure that the forces of opposition might destroy her. Give her a friend who can make her laugh and let us readers catch our breath. Know that her fight is always a fight to the ‘death’-she will face a dilemma between what she wants and what she needs. She can’t have both. She must surrender her old view and be …

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The Big Nothing, Small Deaths, and How a Dilemma is Vital for Storytellers

 22 comments Two days into 2014 I had a ‘New Year’ conversation with a good friend.  Our talk turned to Noam Chomsky. I’d just seen Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, an animated documentary on the life of the linguist, philosopher, and political activist by French filmmaker Michel Gondry. (It is, btw, a delightful and provocative film.) Chomsky had been an early influence in my friend’s academic life. We touched briefly on Chomsky’s atheism and his belief in (I paraphrase) the “big nothing” that follows death. The topic of what comes after—nothing or something—tugged at me more than usual, due I think, …

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