Archive | June, 2013

How to Ruin Your Novel

26 Jun

Don’t Have a Plan

If you’re in the business of ruining your novel and you have a plan, scrap it. Start from scratch. Write whatever comes to your mind, as it comes to your mind. If you like to write this way anyway, be sure to never think ahead. DO NOT figure out how your novel is going to end before you get there.

No plans. Got it?

If you are a writer who will die without an outline, no worries, you can still ruin your novel. Just use the first outline that pops into your head. Don’t revise it. Don’t optimize it.

Don’t Get Feedback

If you’re trying to ruin your story, feedback is the last thing you want. Once you finish your novel, don’t send it out to friends and family. Don’t join a critique group. Just read through it once and send it off to agents.

If they happen to give you some feedback, don’t listen to it.

Do Write With Flowery Prose

Short, concise writing will be good for your novel. You should fill your sentences and paragraphs with fluff. Put in as many adjectives (better yet, adverbs) as you can manage. The more, the better.

Flowery, fat prose will do many things to ruin your novel. It will slow your pacing to a crawl. The more random junk your characters say, the less real they will sound. Your novel will be waaaay longer than it should be. Fluffy prose only has benefits as far as we’re concerned.

Do Take Long Breaks

Yeah, every writer needs breaks, but yours should be super long. I’m talking months or years. This way, when you come back to your novel, you won’t really remember what you’ve been writing, and your work will turn out disjointed. Perfect.

Writing is hard, after all. Taking long breaks will be better for your health.

Working hard on your novel only leads to publication. If you want to ruin your novel, take breaks often and make them as long as you can.

If you happen to be one of those crazy people who actually want to write a best-selling novel, just do the opposite of everything above. It’ll work.

Can you think of any other ways to ruin your novel? I’m always looking for ideas.


Michael Jordan’s Guide to Writing a Book

19 Jun

Okay, MJ wasn’t a writer, but he was an expert at what he did. And, surprisingly, a closer look at his basketball skills can teach you a lot about writing a good book.

It’s Okay to Fail

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team?

I know, huge surprise! But he got passed it. He moved on, learned from his mistakes, and kept trying. Even when he was in the NBA, he still had failures. Twice he played a game where he only scored two points!

Did you know that JK Rowling collected eleven rejections before Harry Potter was published? That Kathryn Stockett received over forty before The Help was accepted? Getting rejections is part of writing.

And it’s totally okay. Getting rejected doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer.

Don’t ever stop trying, and you will publish.

Get the Basics Down First

Michael Jordan didn’t start off by doing crazy dunks and alley oops. He practiced dribbling. Then shooting.

Writing is just like this. You can’t begin by trying to nail the intricacies of subplot and prose unless you have a solid foundation of plot, setting, and character. Make sure you have hammered solid your understanding of the basics before you begin working on the flourishes.

Learn the Nuance of Your Craft

I know I just said to make sure you have the basics, but every player in the NBA knows how to make a basket. Being strong in the details, that was what made Jordan truly great.

So, once you have the basics down, be sure to learn the nuances of writing. Soak in all the advice you can. Every bit of information you gain and integrate into your work will get you closer to publishing. And when you are published, it’s the deeper craft of your story that will set you apart.

Anyone can write a story. (Just how many boy-goes-to-wizard-school novels are out there?) It’s how you write it that will make you great.

So, any MJ fans?

The Secrets of Getting Romantic Tension into Your Novel

12 Jun

Last year the romance genre generated 1.4 billion in revenue. That’s crazy huge!

Even if you’re not writing a romance, do you have a romance subplot in your novel? If you don’t, maybe you should. Quite obviously, it sells books, and having a strong romance can help you get published.

But getting romance into your novel correctly is easier said than done. How do you get your readers to yearn for your characters to fall in love, to cheer when they do?

Here are two formulas to do just that.

Love at First Sight, but it’s Impossible that it Will Work Out

Your two characters meet, look into each other’s eyes, and it’s love. Or they already know each other and secretly are in love with each other. Whatever the back story, they are attracted to each other already.

Here’s the catch. These two characters cannot be together. The better the reason is, the more your readers will be drawn to it. They will cheer, watching those two characters fighting to get together. And when they do, it will be oh so satisfying.

Here’s an example I know some of you won’t appreciate, but it has sold 116 million copies (1.3 million in one day!), so we’ve got to consider it. Edward and Bella.

They meet, and they’re both attracted to each other. The reason they can’t be together? Edward is a vampire and has some secret desires to drink Bella’s blood. Yeah, I know. It’s a little weird, but it’s perfect for creating romantic tension. Because the reason that Edward and Bella can’t be together is so strong, the reader longs for them to fall in love.

Two Characters Hate Each Other, but Slowly Come to Realize They’re in Love

Here’s the second formula. Your two characters meet and, for whatever reason, they absolutely detest each other. One is rude to the other, they’re mortal enemies, etc. Again, the stronger the reason, the more your readers will fight for them to get together.

Over the course of your story they come to realize that they love each other. When they overcome whatever was keeping them apart, readers cheer.

Here’s a perfect example – Beauty and the Beast. What are all the reasons they dislike each other? Well, the beast captured Belle’s father and then he imprisons her. On top of that, he’s an animal! This is perfect stuff for building romantic tension. We love it when they begin to change and see each other in a new light.

These two strategies can be used so many different ways in so many different scenarios. What are your favorite love stories and how did that author get it to work? Can you think of any other techniques for adding romantic tension to your novel?

How to Write Description Your Readers Won’t Skim Over

5 Jun

Why does it matter?

C’mon, let’s be honest here. How often do you skip over description? You’re reading along, you see it coming… a huge block of boring text. You skim it or jump to the next interesting looking part.

But there are reasons you should want readers to notice your description.

Description can:

  • build your setting and your world
  • add to the aesthetics of your story
  • add to your character development (yes, you read that right)

Here’s the beautiful thing about it – description can do all that at once. Here’s how:

What Great Description Isn’t

Well-crafted description isn’t long. It isn’t cliché. Because it isn’t long or cliché, it isn’t boring. Even if you’ve written the most incredible paragraph of all time, if it drags on for a page, your readers aren’t going to take the time to plow through it.

Keep it short. Keep it simple. And be original.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when describing your world. It’s your world, isn’t it? Describe it in a way that’s unique to you. Your readers will lap it up.

What Great Description Is

Here’s the real secret. Are you paying attention?

The best description is told from a character’s perspective.

This can be done no matter what point of view you’re writing from. Even in third person, you should still be focusing from the perspective of one character and writing with some of their voice.

When your character walks into a room, what do they see? More importantly, how do they see things?

Two characters could see the same vase. One might think of how perfect it would be for flowers. Another would think of how great it would be to store their stamp collection.

You’re describing the same vase, but you’re also giving a hint into character. Your readers aren’t bored, because they are interested in your characters’ habits and thoughts. They’re reading what you want them to read, they’re seeing your world, and they’re interested in it.

Any Wheel of Time fans? Robert Jordan was a master at this. The way an Aiel would describe a river is very different from the way a “wetlander” would describe the same river.

Description can make or break your story. What are some tricks that you use to work it in? What are some examples of character-based description you can think of?


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