My NaNoWriMo Tip #30: Follow my motto, “Last author standing.”

NaNo30

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #30, for Friday, the 30th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

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My NaNoWriMo Tip #28: Your character said WHAT???

NaNo28

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #28, for Wednesday, the 28th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

My NaNoWriMo Tip #27: Bad query letter. (Just sayin’.)

NaNo27
It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #27, for Tuesday, the 27th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

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My NaNoWriMo Tip #26: How to get an agent.

NaNo26
It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #26, for Monday, the 26th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

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My NaNoWriMo Tip #25: Why, and when,authors need an agent.

 

NaNo25
It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #25, for Sunday, the 25th…

 

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

 

 

My NaNoWriMo Tip #23: Make sure your plot isn’t half-baked!


PieBook
It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #23, for Friday, the 23th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

AmazonKindleButton 

 

My NaNoWriMo Tip #22: No, Your manuscript is NOT a turkey…if you…

NaNo22

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #22, for Thursday, the 22th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

AmazonKindleButton

 

 

 

 

My NaNoWriMo Tip #21: Why EVERY word counts!

NaNo21

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #21, for Wednesday, the 21th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown


Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

AmazonKindleButton 

My NaNoWriMo Tip #20: Become the George Clooney of writers.

NaNo20

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #20, for Tuesday, the 20th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown


Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 


HAH Hanging Man V2 THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 

#45 on Amazon Kindle/Mysteries/Women Sleuths
 But It Today, on

AmazonKindleButton 

My Tip #19 for NaNoWriMo: To rewrite a scene, change the point of view.

NaNo19

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #19, for Monday, the 19th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

 

HA5 Vacation to Die For (LoRes) (768x1024)Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S VACATION TO DIE FOR contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 


HA1 Handbook 768x1024 FREE!
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 
Over 150,000 free and paid downloads.
Find out why readers love it.

Read more about Donna at www.HousewifeAssassinsHandbook.com

 


My NaNoWriMo Tip #12 is on getting out of a writing rut…

Nano 12a

It's NaNoWriMo Month!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

Here's Tip #12, for Monday, the 12th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 

HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK Today, on

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My 10th NaNoWriMo Tip is here…

NaNo10

It's NaNoWriMo Month!

(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you. 

Here's Tip #10, for Saturday, the 10th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 

HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK Today, on

AmazonKindleButton 

 

 

 

NanoWriMo Tip #23: Don’t send out a half-baked novel manuscript

Chocolate-Walnut-Pie
Around Thanksgiving, pies are my thing. Besides pumpkin, I've been known to make a mean pecan pie, too.

Unless I feel the grocery store is gouging their customers on pecans. Then I choose walnuts. (See my recipe, below…)

And because the pie is soused with so much Amaretto and lined with so much dark chocolate, it doesn't really matter to my family what kind of nut they're eating, because they're enjoying the hell out of every bite.

Unless the crust is under-baked.

Sadly, that can ruin everything.

To ensure the crust at the bottom bakes fully but that I don't burn it around the edge, I will bake my crust first, for about ten minutes, prepped with tinfoil on the bottom and along the sides of the inner shell, which if then filled with dry beans or dry rice to hold it down and reduce heat exposure.

Saves my arse every time. 

Now that you're in the last few days of National Novel Writing Month and are feeling great about your word count, I want to give you a gentle reminder that this is just the first draft of your book. 

In other words, it's only half-baked.

Before you get literary agents and editors to bite, make sure you've done the following to ensure it's as tasty to them as possible:

1. Re-read your manuscript.
Specifically, for holes in your plot. Trust me, there are some. Perhaps a story thread that isn't knotted to anything else, and therefore isn't necessary. Or for scenes that go nowhere: that have no spice. If it bores you, it will bore those critical first readers too. Or for any little niggling thing that bothers you about your story, whether that be a character's name, or a location that hasn't been fully visualized for the reader, or for a paragraph that seems to slow the plot down.

Re-reading encourages editing.

Editing tightens your plot.

A tight plot makes for a great story.

2. Now, re-read it again.
This time, for character flawsThis does not mean that your characters should be perfect people. BOOORRRRRING. It means that your writing has to make them come alive on the page.

You won't be doing this by telling us about them, but showing them in situations that make us love them, hate them, be annoyed by them, root for them….

In other words, we've got to care about them.

3.  Once again now: read it. I'm begging you, please.
You're doing this in order to catch typos you've missed during the first and second reads. (They are there, just waiting to be found!)

You're doing this because tight (plot, characters, dialogue, story flow) makes right. 

And you're doing this in order to fall in love with your manuscript all over again. Because when you're high on it, you'll write a fantastic query letter for it, too.

Between that letter and your fully-baked manuscript, you'll have agents beating down your door.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: PIE. YUMMY! 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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Question of the day: How many times do you re-read your manuscript before sending it out into the world?  And honestly, do you feel it's enough?

Happy Thanksgiving — and happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

 

MY PIE RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick of butter or margarine
  • 1 BAR of at least 70% dark chocolate 
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Amaretto (Bailey's or Carolans works, too)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (my favorite is Trader Joe's roll-out crust, found in the refrigerated foods area)
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Prick bottom and sides of pie crust with fork. Press heavy-duty aluminum foil onto bottom and around side of pie crust; fill with uncooked rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes; remove foil and rice. Bake additional 7 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Stir together chocolate, walnuts and flour in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in corn syrup, vanilla and salt, beating just until blended. (Mixture may look curdled.) Stir in walnut mixture. 
  5. Pour mixture into baked pie crust.
  6. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until outer edges of pie are set and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just melted chocolate. Center will still be jiggly. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover; store up to 2 days at room temperature or if storing longer, refrigerate. 8 servings.

NaNoWriMo Tip #17: The emotional depth of your characters is important.

Throwing words onto the page is the essence of National Novel Writing Month. But meeting a word quota isn't the most thoughtful way in which to craft a story. When you go back and read what you've written, inevitably you will re-edit each scene.

This will be the time in which you can ask yourself if your character is all he (or she) should be — and strengthen them even further.

When it comes to developing characters, most writers seem to fall into two camps. The first works from a great plot premise, allowing it to determine what characters will inhabit the story, and to drive his or her plot forward. The second starts with an idea for a unique hero, then creates plot challenges that showcase the hero's character strengths and (hopefully) flaws.

There are pitfalls to both approaches. When a story is plot-driven, sometimes the author will leave out all those things that allow readers to empathize with the hero. Remember: you want your readers to fall in love with your hero.

However, if your story is character-driven, the author may be telling us all the reasons why we should love this character, but is not giving the hero anything to do. If the hero is not challenged, he is not given a reason to grow and change.

And the reader has no reason to care for him.

As in real life, character is demonstrated through actions (plot) and words (dialogue). A strong narrative voice — not necessarily first person — allows us into the heads of the hero: not just to hear what he is thinking, but to gauge how he is feeling, too.

Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was her debut novel. It took her nine years to write. No NaNoWriMo deadline, there!)I

t is a perfect example of a hero whose strength of character is revealed through the challenges that come with a sweeping plot.

Mitchell's heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, is a young Southern woman who is unable to let go of  her unrelenting obsession for a childhood sweetheart, Ashley Wilkes, through the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This obsession destroys her chance for true happiness with the man who has stood beside her from the beginning: Rhett Butler.

In her novel's nine-year journey, Mitchell edited, and re-edited and re-edited her unwieldy none-hunderd page manuscript, and still wasn't satisfied with it. Everyone in her social circle knew she was writing a novel, but she never had the courage to show it to friends.

Mitchell's break came when she met an editor from MacMillan Publishers at a local tea. He was in town looking for novel manuscripts that his company might consider. Although Mitchell kept silent about her own project, a scornful remark about Mitchell's efforts made by an acquaintance gave Mitchell the kick in the pants she needed to box up the manuscript and hand it off the the editor just as he boarded his train to New York.

The rest is publishing history. Her effort proved to be Pulitzer- and film-worthy as well.

Despite a devastating war that has turned Scarlett O'Hara's fortunes upside down, and in spite of her flaws of vanity and pettiness, for decades now readers have been drawn to Scarlett and her story, for good reason:

We know people like her. We are her.

We are annoyed by her, we pity her. And we love her.

Even Mitchell's secondary characters — Aunty Pittypat, the Tarleton twins, Charles Hamilton, Mrs. Merriweather — are so well-written that we feel as if we know them. Even if they annoy you, they raise emotion in you.

This says a lot about the author.

What do your characters say about you?

PICTURE: in the movie version of Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh played Scarlett O'Hara, and Clark Gable played the man she should have loved, Rhett Butler. It was casting at its best.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Would you want to hang out with your hero/heroine? Tell me why (or why not)…       

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #16: How to get out of “paragraph paralysis.”

Indiana Jones
You've written your hero into a cave, and he can't get out.

Or maybe he's hit a wall. Or hanging from a cliff.

In any event, you've put him in a corner, surrounded by bad guys, in every direction.

Now, you're stuck — both literally and creatively.

To quote former Republican presidential candidate and subsequently Dancing with the Stars hopeful, Rick Perry, Ooops.”

This is what I call “paragraph paralysis.

Let me put it this way: If you were Stan Laurel and I was Oliver Hardy, now is when I'd turn to you and say, “Well Stanley, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into!”

LaurelandHardyPiano

Laurel and Hardy: “The Piano” video. Click to play.

One of the most notorious solutions to paragraph paralysis that I can recall occurred on the television show, Dallas. Whereas the Season  7 cliffhanger had one of the characters, Bobby Ewing, killed off, it's revealed at the beginning of Season 9 that ALL of Season 8 was just a bad dream happening to his wife, Pam. (And the viewers, I'm presuming.)

Okay, I feel your pain. I get that you're freaked out. Like your hero, you've come to a complete stop.

Here's how you (and he–or her, as the case may be) can get out of that hole:

1. Remember: In your novel, you are GOD.
That means you can move mountains, both literally and figuratively. If he's in a cave, maybe it has a false wall, or ceiling, or floor. Help him find it.

2. Think outside of the box/cave/cliff/wall/bridge.
There is a reason why today's illustrative photo is of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom bridge. Quite frankly, my example could have been taken from any of the Indy movies, since he's always stuck somewhere. In this case, there were bad guys on all sides, and no plane or helicopter to swoop down and save him–

But he had his trusty machete.

And he knows how to swing it!

So there you go: a solution. If you just hang in there, he (and you) will survive, and live to see another chapter.

3. Rewrite your scene, so that you are more comfortable with it.
This untenable position may be your subconscious telling you, “I don't know where I'm going with this (page/chapter/story). If so, it's time that you revisit the full outline of your plot. If something isn't working now, it will affect your plot down the road. The sooner you make the change, the better. (After you've written the day's 1,650 words, of course.)

 

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you ever left a character out on a ledge? Did you come back to save him, or is he still out there?

Yes, you will survive National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #15: Recognize these three ways in which you sabotage your writing goals.

fitzgerald-zelda1

Yay! It's November 15th, and that means you've made it to National Novel Writing Month's half-way mark.

If you've been hitting (or exceeding) your daily word count of around 1,650 words, then pat yourself on the back. You drank the Kool-Aid and thrived.

If, on some of those days, you've found yourself staring at a blank screen, my guess is that your problem isn't that you don't make the time or effort, but that some subliminal self-sabotage is at play.

Here are three ways in which you may be holding yourself from reaching your NaNoWriMo goal — and more importantly, your life dream of writing a novel:

1. You haven't done your (creative writing) homework.
Like every task, there is a skill set to learn. In creative writing, this includes plot structure and character development, not to mention such basics as sentence structure and grammar.

Words are your tools. The artistry of fiction comes with knowing how to use them: when to chip away at paragraphs that ramble, how to use less words to create more nuance. 

Take time to read other authors who have succeeded with these skills. (My personal favorites, to name a few, are Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Mitchell, Martin Cruz Smith, and John LeCarre.) By immersing yourself in their stories, the art of word play will soon be second nature to you. Eventually you will develop that sixth sense all great writers have: to craft moving sentences from the simplest words.

 2. You are writing during a time when you can be easily distracted.
The best time of day to write may not necessarily be when it is available to you. That said, consider the time of day (or night) in which you have the fewest distractions.

If it's while your children are at school, chances are you'll be at work. Make your lunch hour that time—but get out of the office, so that co-workers can't distract you.

If it is at night, turn off the TV and write, write, write. If, like me, it's late at night when everyone else is asleep, take a nap, then set the alarm for midnight and write for a couple of hours. By accepting the fact that your creative clock is different from the rest of the world's, you'll make your goal after all.

3. You are afraid of failing.
Most of the never-been-published authors I know have written wonderful stuff. The writing part isn't their problem. It is fear of rejection.

What they tell me is, “It isn't perfect…yet” or “I'm still tweaking.”

Bullshit! Their manuscripts have been tweaked to death: every word scrutinized, every phrase agonized over.

In fact, they have read other author-pal's manuscripts — those who have been published, and continue to succeed — and have given great feedback to make those unpublished manuscripts even stronger. They have the chops. We've read their manuscripts, too.

Whereas they consciously know that writing is a subjective art and that everyone gets rejections, they don't feel they can bear that rejection themselves.

Are you this person? If so, I want to give you a mantra: “If I don't let an agent read it, it will never be sold, and read by millions.”

Yes, you are holding your book hostage.

I've just played hostage negotiator with you. Set your manuscript free, and enjoy the accolades it is bound to receive.

One issue, which is not self-sabotage, can still get in your way: when the rest of your world is in crisis.

I've known many authors who have been under deadline to deliver a manuscript, but before they could do so, real life got in the way. Let me make this clear: this is not a form of self-sabotage.

It happens to all of us. The fact of the matter is that real life (as opposed to those lives we create on the page) brings with it some real problems. And real life takes precedent over your creative writing goals.

Some of my own deadlines had to be met during a time in my life when those closest to me were going through major health perils. Forget the word “distraction.” During a life-or-death situation, all you can think about is the pain your loved one is suffering, and the heartache you'd feel should you lose them.

As much as you may want to write every day, you have to face the fact that you may not be able to accomplish this goal.

Time to punt.

Deal with the ordeal. Take a breather. Then get back to your writing.

Because, like a true friend, it will always be there, waiting, for you.

IMAGE: F. Scott Fitzgerald, with his wife, Zelda. Talk about a man who wrote, despite adversity! His wife's mental illness was always a distraction, as was his alcoholism. And yet, Fitzgerald wrote until his dying day. Even his unfinished manuscript, The Last Tycoon, is a masterpiece. Talk about consummate word play!

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #14: Is writing a craft, or an art?

Sargent in his Studio

It's a trick question: creative writing is both a craft and an art.

Those who master the “craft” part have taken the time and effort to hone the skills needed in order to push out the words in a timely fashion (just as you are doing throughout National Novel Writing Month). They use proper grammar and syntax. And of course, they know how to format a book manuscript (a one-inch border all around; double-spaced: and in  the header, the book's title / your name / page number).

They've also taken the time to learn the business of writing. By this, I mean that they:

(a) Have critique group. Every author should have access to other like-minded writers who meet at least once a month in order to read each others' pages and help each other work through plot holes; and

(b) Listen to what others are saying about literary agents who are actively seeking manuscripts.Then they research these agents to assess which of them will be the best champions for their stories. (Broad hint: it is those agents who are already selling stories similar to yours, and have established strong contacts with the editors who love those types of stories.

Writers who are good craftspersons follow each agents' specific rules for querying. (One agent may ask for a synopsis and 50 pages of the manuscript, whereas another may want to see a full manuscript from an unpublished author.)

At the same time, these authors break rules, too: they aren't shy about introducing themselves to agents at a networking event or industry party, because they know that a little face time–coupled with an intriguing one-liner about their book–will get them an immediate response, like: “Sounds interesting! Email me your manuscript, and be sure to put in the subject line that we met here….”

(c) Listen what others are saying about publishing houses and their various imprints. Who are the editors, and what are they buying now? Are cozies selling well? Have zombies peaked? Is Steampunk holding its own? Is YA aging out?

Here's the bottom line: even if you are a Nazi grammarian, or are the best networker in the world, if you haven't embraced the art of creative writing, it won't matter how many agents you query, or how many editors' desks your manuscript ends up on–

Because everyone is looking for the next great book, and that ain't yours. 

Unless you are an “artist,” too.

Authors who are artists recognize a wonderful “what if” premise for a story, when they run across one.

They know to create a story arc, with a “got to keeping reading this”  beginning, a rachet-it-up middle, and a climatic as well as satisfying ending.

Their characters seem so real that you want to love them, or despise them, or hang out with them — forever.

Their dialogue makes you laugh out loud, or gasp, or cry.

If they describe someone, your mind's eye can see him immediately.

The art of writing is what makes a book great.

Your book is great, too. But you'll have to challenge yourself once again: both as a craftsperson, and as an artist.

Once NaNoWriMo is over, take the time to review your manuscript for craft issues. Do you have too many typos? Do you know when to use a comma? Is the document formatted correctly? Have you researched the best agents to send your manuscripts (Multiple submissions are okay, and most accept online submissions as well).

After you've got the craft side down, you're ready to sculpt it into the work of art it should be.

This means making the effort to rewrite your plot holes, your unrealistic dialogue, or peripheral characters who don't move the story forward (let alone in any direction).

The artist in you will make sure that readers can empathize with your hero. They have to feel his pain.

Your narration must be potent, intoxicating your readers to stay within the world you've created for them, here on the page.

To do all this, both as a craftsperson and an artist, you can't just read over your manuscript once or twice. You'll read it at least four times. That should take four weeks, with breaks in between (otherwise you'll go cross-eyed and hate the sound of your own writing voice.)

Then, by January, you should query agents with a boffo letter that will have them intrigued.

All agents appreciate craft. But they live to sell art.

So you have to get it into the agents' hands. You can't be a Van Gogh: that is, afraid that agents won't love it as much as you do. How can they, if you don't let them see it?

You've got to be a John Singer Sargent—that is, someone who proves himself in public. (something he was doing since his very first submission was accepted in the Paris Salon in the late 1870s), You must be spectacular in your craft. More to the point, you must be a steady producer. One novel won't do it.

More on query letters in a future tip…

PICTURE: John Singer Sargent in his studio. His paintings, both his portraits and landscapes, are revered and timeless
His most famous (and infamous) was Madame X.
Sargent had the chops alright. But unlike some painters of his time, he knew his art was also his business, and he made money from it..

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: As an author, do you consider yourself a craftsperson, or an artist? Tell me why…

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #13: Make sure your readers love your hero.

via GIFER

 
If you ran into your hero at a cocktail party, would you talk to him?

If so, what is it about him that would have attracted you to him in the first place? Would it be the way he stands out in the room? Or his laugh? Or his voice?

I'm guessing it's the way he attracts a crowd (other great characters) around him. If he looks like a fun guy, then just like you, others will want to hang with him, and soak up his vibe.

If your character isn't engaging to you, trust me: he won't hold his own with readers, either.

Sure they may finish the book. But that's no guarantee that they will come around for a second book, or recommend it to others.

Those of you participating in National Novel Writing Month know that the prime objective is moving your story ahead each day in November, at a clip of 1,650 words a day. That averages around five pages a day (or 330 words per page). Much of what I've written about in the twelve tips that have preceded this one involves crafting a solid, fast-moving plot, which, if your story were a sandwich, is the tasty bread that holds the story together. But your main character is the meat in the middle:

If he or she ain't tasty, your story is plain. Blah.

It's just dry as toast.

Case in point: There are a vast number of spy novels, but the ones that attract legions of ongoing readers have one thing in common:

Characters who are smart, fun, fearless, and flawed enough that they aren't (in Mary Poppins-ology) practically perfect in every way. (My god, think how boring that would be?)

In that genre, my favorite authors are John LeCarre and William Dietrich, for different reasons. In the case of Mr. LeCarre, I enjoy the tortured backstories of his heroes just as much as the intricacies of his plots, which demonstrate the amount of skill and research that go into his into his novels. I love the flaws that are etched into his heroes.

As for Mr. Dietrich — especially in his Nathan Gage series — his plots are fun romps built around history and mythology, and his hero is a delightful scoundrel and an adventurer.

Both writers are skilled enough at their craft that their characters'  backstories aren't “told” to us (show, not tell, as in Tip #5, remember?) but appropriately intercut as flashbacks (LeCarre), or worked back into the ongoing plot (Dietrich).

A strong character wears his backstory heavily in his eyes, his gait, or on his sagging shoulders. It is sprinkled into his conversation, and that of his friends and enemies.

Like all of us, your hero's traits are the sum total of his life experience. They are why he makes wrong choices, and why he seeks redemption. 

They are what make him interesting.

It's why we want to hang out with him.

It's why we fall in love with him.

Otherwise, we can be doing something else.

And so can you.

Like re-examining your hero, to take advantage of every opportunity to make him more interesting.

PICTURE: Yep, that is Daniel Craig tux'ed up as James Bond, the iconic spy as written by master novelist Ian Fleming. Your main character doesn't have to be as self-assured , but he or she will have to have traits that allow readers to want to hang in with them, for the three hundred or so pages of your story. 

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YESERDAY'S NANOWRIMO TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you ever written a character that was so boring that you had to get rid of him/her?

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #12: Choose the right time to write.

ChutesAndLadders

A wonderful thing about National Novel Writing Month is that it gets participating writers into the mindset of writing under deadline. This may come easier to those of us experienced in doing so (like journalists, or advertising copywriters), but it's still a challenge for anyone who is working on a creative project — like a novel — for the very first time.

During the thirty days of NaNoWriMo, there will be many of those days in which you'll be on your game. Metaphorically speaking, that “game” is similar to the one we played as kids called Chutes and Ladders. Some moves put you far ahead, whereas others put you back to Square One.

I'm presuming you've already had more than a few days in which you've been knocked off your pace. Perhaps real life got in the way. Or maybe your muse took the day off (that is probably what keeps her mossy; and maybe you should follow her lead…after NaNoWriMo, of course).

A lot of your success as a novelist will depend on the habits you develop to nurture your creative writing. A very important consideration is what time of day you write, and why you've chosen it.

If you're one of the lucky people in this day and age who actually holds down a full-time job, obviously those eight hours are out the window. If you're too tired to write after you come home, then maybe the best time to write those 1500 words is prior to leaving for work. (Hey, it worked for John Grisham. Make him your role model).

Granted, if you have to get your kids ready for school in the morning, there goes that writing opportunity, too.

Which leaves your lunch hour. Can you throw 1500 words onto a page in 60 minutes?

If you're focused, yes you can.

If you're driven, yes you can.

If you are well-hydrated well-fed, and away from distractions, yes you can.

Many writers will work in groups. Seeing your pals clicking away may be the best motivator. You don't want to be the only one staring off into space. That said, seek out a local NaNoWriMo daily/weekly writing group. It may light a fire under you like nothing else can.

I've always been in awe of my writer friends who can write anywhere, like a favorite coffee shop, or their local bookstore. It's what works for them: to be out of their home and writing, even if they don't have an out-of-house office.

Okay, here's my little secret: some of my best writing takes place on airplanes. It's psychological: back before WiFi invaded airplanes, I was actually relieved that I couldn't be distracted by email or surf the web.

Today I'm cheap enough that I refuse to pay the $5 fee to get connected.

At least, that's what I tell myself.

The truth is, I love those cross-country flights because it's five hours of uninterrupted writing time (especially now that I've purchased a tiny Netbook, so that when the guy in the row in front of me reclines his seat, I don't end up with my keyboard sitting on my chest.)

If I were under deadline for a book, it might behoove me to buy an unlimited ticket, so I can stay up in the air. Yeah, right. Financially, that's out of the question. So I do the next best thing: I've noted that my best writing has been done after a full day's work (yes, of writing). I seem to get a second wind sometime after 11pm. It's quieter. No hubby pawing at me. No kids whining at me. No dog asking my thoughts about an evening stroll.

It's MY time.

And my books are worth my taking the time.

So are yours, so figure out WHEN you can write optimally, and go for it.

Because yes you can.

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP HERE…

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I've got a question for you: What writing habits work best for you? Which haven't worked?

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

NaNoWriMo Tip #11: Why the voice you choose matters.

Stand-out-of-crowd
Yesterday I read a comment from an author participating in National Novel Writing Month that made me wince: she was bemoaning the fact that she'd started her book in first person, but now realizing that third person worked better for the story, didn't want to go back and make the changes needed.

In my head, I was thinking, NOOOOOOOOOOO!

Trust me, it's worth the time to make the fix.

Been there, done that. Of my five published novels, four of them are written in first person: that is to say, one of the characters narrates the story, from his/her point-of-view, for the reader.

When it comes to fiction, this is not norm, for a very good reason: sometimes the story needs to be told from many points of view, or in “third person.”

True-Hollywood-Lies
Impossibly Tongue-Tied,
the one novel of mine which was written in third person, didn't start out that way. I spent two weeks and many pages before I figured out that what had worked so wonderfully for my first novel, True Hollywood Lies, would be the death of my second.

True Hollywood Lies is told from the point-of-view of its heroine, Hannah: all the other characters are seen through her eyes, their actions and motives scrutinzed through the mess of Hannah's emotional pain, which comes from the sudden demise of a father with whom she never got to reconcile their differences. He was a revered film star who'd had numerous wives and lovers. As a personal assistant to a red hot film star who reminds her too much of her dad, Hannah has to work hard not to be blinded by his charisma, at the expense of her own dreams and desires. 

 

CandidateThe Candidate takes place in Washington, D.C.,  but follows several characters, all of whom have personal agendas or traumatic plights that put them at cross purposes, and puts the nation in danger.. The hero, Ben, is desperate to find a presidential candidate who won't implode on him. The vice-president wants a slam-dunk into the White House, and will do anything to get it. And the mysterious love of Ben's life, Maddie is a pawn in everyone's game.

Of course, the goal is to make it so that the reader enjoys the twists and turns–and hopefully doesn't see what comes next. 

That's what makes the book so fun: lots of shenanigans happens before the explosive climax.

But had I kept slogging it out to make the story first person, the reader would not have gotten to enjoy all the fun leading up to the climax.

The best rule of thumb in choosing voice is this: Go with what works best for the reader. 

Even if you have to start over and replace all the “I”s with “She”s or “He”s.

The pay-off will be a wide open vista of opportunities for your characters. 

Their actions will speak volumes to your readers in the way that your first-person voice could never do.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown

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READ YESTERDAY'S TIP, HERE…

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I've got a question for you, and be honest: Have you ever started a story in the wrong voice, then had to change it? If so, how are were you into it, before you realized it?

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

  

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