Category Archives: Myths and Truths for writers

A whole bunch of things I’ve learned about writing and selling my writing

Firearms In Fiction: What Authors Need to Know – by Dave Chesson…

Here’s some useful nitty gritty via Chris the Story Reading Ape and Janice Hardy of Fiction University, from, in the end, Dave Chesson, of Kindlepreneur fame. All wonderful resources. This one serves those of us writing mystery/suspense who end up with those shootout scenes, maybe despite our better judgment. At least we don’t have to look totally dumb! Thanks to all on this team.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

on Fiction University:

Having characters use firearms in a book can be common practice. There are some genres that use them extensively like science fiction, thrillers, crime novels, and more. However, regardless of what genre you write in, there is a chance that at some point, a firearm will be a necessary plot point, component, or a part of your next scene.

Writing about guns can seem simple since we see them a lot on TV and movies. However, the movies usually get it wrong, and this has caused many misconceptions that bleed into a lot of stories.

So as to help authors understand weapons better, and thus create stronger stories, I’m going to start by discussing major concepts and principles. Then I’ll show you some resources you can look to, as well as some ideas on how to investigate or do field work if you choose.

Continue reading HERE

View original post

Leave a comment

Filed under Myths and Truths for writers, self editing for fiction writers, writing novels

Pet Peeve No. 2146: Bad Advice about the Progressive Tense

How I react to recurring pet peeves! Screaming writer!

No, I don’t really have that many pet peeves about the writing advice I find on so many excellent blogs. Maybe only 2145. Or maybe it’s just that I see this one so often that it feels like I’ve seen it 2145 times.

Here it is:

“Whenever you find that you’ve used an “-ing” form of a verb, get rid of it. It’s a writing sin!”

The idea behind this advice is that the sentence

She was eating her lunch when the phone rang.

Means the same thing as

She ate her lunch when the phone rang.

No.

I have a feeling that most native English-speakers’ ear for their language tells them that these two sentences don’t mean the same thing and can’t be substituted for each other. The “to be” + “ing” form is the “progressive tense,” denoting an ongoing event or action, often, in narratives, functioning as a setting for some other action, probably involving the relative times of events.

Rain was falling by the time we went outside.

I walked out while he was still talking.

The usual advice is to change the progressive form to the simple past as in the example above or the simple present if you’re writing in present tense.

I am watching my son play outside as the phone begins to ring.

I watch my son play outside as the phone begins to ring.

Substituting the simple forms in place of the progressive introduces a suggestion of causality: One action caused the other.

I ate my lunch because the phone rang.

The ringing phone causes me to begin watching my son.

Note that the second example of this construction places a subtle emphasis on the ringing phone that is not present in the progressive example, linking the ringing phone with the decision or need to watch the child. Something momentous, probably ominous, underlies that call! (The guy she broke up with is making one last, futile push!)

The advice to cut this form appears to be connected to our need to “tighten” our writing. It also may result from the fear of the verb “to be” that seems to haunt so many writing pundits (a misplaced fear in my view).

Obviously, we all need to make sure our writing is as crisp as possible, with excess words excised. Scrutinizing your “-ing” choices does no harm, especially if (okay, like me) you begin to see a lot of them in your prose. Trying out different sentence options is seldom a wasted effort. For example,

Or

I’d just smeared my first helping of foie gras on my eighty-grain artisanal flatbread when the phone rang.

I walked out right in the middle of his jibber-jabber.

So what I’m inveighing against here isn’t the need to eye all our favorite sentence patterns with suspicion. I get that. What I’m resisting is the idea that you can always substitute simple tenses for progressive versions and that you should do so at the sacred altar of cutting words.

Sometimes it’s okay to let words do what they want to do. They usually will, anyway.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

3 Comments

Filed under Editing your novel, Myths and Truths for writers, self editing for fiction writers, style for writers

Why “Start With the Action” Messes Up So Many Writers – by Janice Hardy…

This piece from @Janice_Hardy echoes some of the best advice I’ve ever heard: Start with conflict, not crisis. How people deal with a crisis is much more interesting than the crisis itself.

Apropos though of making sure *something* is “happening,” Hardy is right on that as well. In my experience as a reader it takes special genius to create a character so interesting I’ll listen to him or her THINK for pages and pages. As a mortal, I’ve found that setting up the story conflict in a scene built around the central characters gets me into the story so much more effectively. I’ve also learned that any introspective scene that goes on for more than a page–or even half a page–needs some other character to jump in and interrupt it.

So check out Hardy’s advice here. I think it’s spot on.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

on Fiction University:

Sometimes really great advice is anything but helpful.

If I took a poll for the most common writing advice, “start with the action” would make the list.

Which it should, as it’s great advice. But it’s also like saying, “show, don’t tell.” We know we ought to do it, but we don’t always know how, and those four words don’t help us with the beginnings of our novels.

This can be especially hard on new writers, because they might think they’re doing everything right, but still get negative feedback or even rejections on their manuscripts. “I do start with action,” they cry. “Can’t you see that car barreling off that cliff there? What do I have to do, blow up a planet?”

Well, no.

Maybe it’s the movie industry and all those summer blockbusters, but say “action scene” and most people envision something Michael Bay-ish—car chases…

View original post 75 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Myths and Truths for writers, Plot Development for writers, What Not To Do in Writing Novels, writing novels

So-True Post: Some Hard Facts about Publishing

Soooo many books! Why write one more?
Soooo many books out there

Over at Writers in the Storm, guest blogger Tasha Seegmiller writes not to offer a “downer,” but instead, to help people align their expectations of writing a little better.”

This column reminded me how I’m constantly surprised by some of the questions aspiring writers ask on self-help Facebook sites. Yesterday, is grammar important? Today, should an author get a web site? This column offers some advice I think everyone hoping to publish needs.

Me included. Realizing that writing is a business—never a comfortable home territory for me—but also that it really has to be something you just can’t help doing: These are the reminders I need.

A while back, in answer to a post on the pros and cons of self- versus traditional publishing, I wrote “What It Was Like for Me,” an account of my own experiences being traditionally published. Even though my encounter with the realities of publishing happened quite a long time ago, I still found that Seegmiller’s take resonated. It was ever so, and I didn’t know enough then to negotiate this strange and daunting space.

Follow good blogs and wonderful people like @JaneFriedman. As Seegmiller says, educate yourself. So you’ll be more ready than I was.

Leave a comment

Filed under business of writing, inspiration for writers, looking for literary editors and publishers, Money issues for writers, Myths and Truths for writers, Publishing, writing novels

Questions to Ask Your Publisher Before You Sign the Contract – by Jane Friedman…

There are a few folks I consider treasures for the #writingcommunity. If you’re not familiar with Jane Friedman, take the time to learn about her. (And make sure you subscribe to Chris the Story Reading Ape, a terrific curator of posts we all can use.)

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Over the weekend, you might have seen a writing-and-money topic trending on Twitter, #PublishingPaidMe, where authors started publicly sharing their advances. Such transparency is long overdue and—in this particular case—is meant to reveal stark differences between what Black and non-Black authors get paid.

Amidst these tweets, I saw a repeated call to action for Black authors: Before you agree to a deal, ask your publisher about their marketing and promotion plans for your book. Ask how they plan to support you.

Ask, ask, ask. (Because their support falls short of where it needs to be, and publishers have to be pushed.)

To assist with that call to action, I’ve collected and expanded information from my past books and articles to help authors ask questions of their potential or existing publisher. I’ve tried to also include indicators that will help you notice and challenge unhelpful answers. If you have an…

View original post 18 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under business of writing, Money issues for writers, Myths and Truths for writers, Publishing, publishing contracts, small presses, writing novels

Amazon Is NOT Your Publisher

I’ve also found that members of one of my writing groups struggle with this distinction between publishers, packagers, and distributors from Sarah Bolme. There’s also some great information about Amazon’s imprints. Enjoy!

Marketing Christian Books

I am surprised by the number of indie and self-published authors who tell me that the publisher of their book is Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing, or IngramSpark.

Amazon is NOT your publisher.

It is clear to me that these authors do not understand the difference between an author, a publisher, and a publishing platform.

Authors and publishers have distinct jobs. These jobs are as follows:

Author’s job:

  • Write a manuscript
  • Engage in marketing to assist sales

Publisher’s job:

  • Edit the manuscript
  • Create a cover
  • Lay out the book
  • Secure a printer
  • Assign an ISBN
  • Access distribution for sales to retail and other channels
  • Engage in marketing to ensure sales

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is neither an author or a publisher. It does not write, edit, lay out, or create a cover design for your book. What KDP offers are services.

They offer a cover design template, an ebook conversion program, printing, distribution for sales, and…

View original post 236 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, business of writing, ebooks publishing and selling, indie publishing, Myths and Truths for writers, Print on Demand for fiction writers, Publishing, Self-publishing, writing novels

4 Newbie Writer Mistakes that can Derail a Great Book Idea – by Anne R. Allen…

Every time I read one of Anne R. Allen’s columns, I learn and relearn so many valuable principles—and I just have to share. I’ve sort of learned a lot that she talks about in this piece (for example, not getting stuck on your first chapter, looking for advice too early, looking for advice from the wrong people), but these reminders are incredibly helpful as well as inspiring. What I need to hear most: In first drafts, the answer is “Just write.”

Thanks to Chris the Story Reading Ape for sharing Anne’s posts.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

You’ve got a fantastic idea for a novel. It’s been hanging around for quite a while, knocking inside your noggin. The idea keeps saying, “Let me out! Release me! Put me in a book!”

Maybe there’s a scene in your head that plays like a video, with every detail of the setting right there, as if it’s on a screen. You know those characters. They’re like real people to you.

But you’ve never had the time to write it all down.

Now you do.

So here you are, finally banging out that scene. And another. And pretty soon you’ve written 10,000, maybe 15,000 words of brilliant, deathless prose. It almost wrote itself. Wow. That was almost too easy.

It IS brilliant, isn’t it?

Well, maybe not. Maybe what’s on the page isn’t quite as good it seemed when you were in the zone.

In fact, it could be terrible. What…

View original post 58 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing your novel, inspiration for writers, Learning to write, Myths and Truths for writers, Plot Development for writers, self editing for fiction writers, Writers' groups, writing novels

10 Good Grammar Resources by Melissa Donovan…

I’m not a fan of those apps and checkers that purport to “fix” your writing. They get way too hysterical about choices that should be judgment calls (e.g., starting a sentence with “But”). Here, however, is a useful list of common-sense sources to help with grammar conundrums. Thanks to Melissa Donovan, and to Chris the Story Reading Ape for sharing it.

(Forgive a moment’s rant about people I see on various self-help social-media pages who claim that they can be good writers while dispensing with a thorough understanding of the “grammar rules.” Some of these “rules” are flexible, but some basic punctuation conventions and sentence-structure mandates like subject/verb agreement are not. Yes, commas can be tricky, and we can argue about which ones are needed and which are optional, but if you still don’t know where apostrophes belong and where they don’t. . . . Yes, there really are grammar police. They’re called agents. 😦 )

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

on Writing Forward:

There’s good grammar and bad grammar, proper grammar and poor grammar. Some writers have fun with grammar and for others, grammar’s a bore. But in order to communicate effectively and for our writing to be professional (and publishable), we all need reliable grammar resources.

There is no grammar authority, no supreme court of grammar where judges strike down the gavel at grammar offenders. Grammar is not an exact science (in fact, it’s not a science at all), and even among the most educated and experienced linguists, the rules of grammar are heavily debated.

Of course, there are some basic rules we can all agree on, and these can found in any good grammar resource. There are gray areas, too, which are skillfully handled by style guides.

As writers, we need these resources. They help us use language effectively. Good grammar ensures that our work is readable. And…

View original post 18 more words

8 Comments

Filed under correct grammar for writers of fiction, Editing your novel, grammar rules for writers, indie publishing, Myths and Truths for writers, punctuation for writers of novels, self editing for fiction writers, Self-publishing, writing novels

More Ways for Authors to Get Scammed

Watch out for literary crocodiles!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware continues to let us know when new scams proliferate—in this case, crooks pretending to be literary agents who just LOVE our books! I have actually talked to people who take such come-ons seriously.

Check out the examples and the advice for recognizing these criminals.

These scams are dead ends! Dead end sign!

Photo by Dustin Tray on Pexels.com

Leave a comment

Filed under business of writing, Finding literary agents for writers, Money issues for writers, Myths and Truths for writers, writing novels, writing scams

Mea Culpa: Ableism and Handwritten Drafts

Mysterious park alleyShortly after my post on the joys and advantages of drafting by hand for writers, I began reading an article by Lauren E. Obermark in the November College English, a major journal for teachers of college writing. Obemark examines the environment of graduate studies in English through the lens of disability studies. Fortunately, you can read this article if you find it interesting; it’s available free at https://library.ncte.org/journals/ce/issues/v82-2

I read this article so that I could summarize it for my other blog, CollegeCompositionWeekly. I have not begun the summary yet, as this is a long, complex piece that will take me several passes to capture within my usual constraint of roughly 1000 words. But Obermark’s report on her survey of graduate students opened my eyes to a sin of omission in my cheerful post on handwritten drafts.

red yellow and orange flower fieldI wrote the post because, every time I draft, I appreciate how well drafting by hand works—for me. Obermark made me realize how easily even well-meaning positions can overlook the fact that the conditions I take for granted do not describe reality for everyone. That this caveat did not even occur to me opens my eyes to my own unquestioned assumptions about writing and literacy—to the limitations of my own definition of “literate practices.” Here are some of the really obvious realizations the article provoked:

  • Handwriting (and, for that matter, keyboarding) requires “sight-work” that, for many, may not be worth the effort or even doable.
  • Handwriting requires comfort holding a writing instrument, like a pen, and keyboarding requires comfort with the physical demands of typing.
  • Handwriting requires a steadiness in movement that not all of us may be graced with.

What have I missed? Many things, I’m sure.

men silhouette in the fog

I still would argue that for those who find handwriting and keyboarding comfortable, drafting by hand is a productive option worth experimenting with. But this article, and my belated grasp of how I fell so easily into that uninformed majority who think that what is normal for me is normal for all, have led me to wonder: writers need methods of drafting and converting their drafts to submittable texts. Which methods would writers who differ in their ableness from me recommend for capturing creativity and flexibility?

What do you use? Please share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Myths and Truths for writers, self editing for fiction writers