Dramaquill's All Things Writing

July 26, 2013

Writing Advice: What Do You Want To Know?

Over the years I’ve blogged on a wide variety of writing topics from playwriting to suspense novels, marketing, book reviewing, contests and more.

After going through my archives, I thought I might turn my blog over to my readers for the month of August by answering your writing related questions.

Please fill out the form below. I’ll post answers (and links, if appropriate) to my favourite questions every Tuesday in August.

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June 11, 2013

Sequel nearing completion

Just plotted out the last five chapters of my sequel
The finish line is in sight
Never give up

December 6, 2011

Nanowrimo aftermath

 
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Well it’s been nearly a week since Nanowrimo (the national novel writing month) ended and participation in the event has given many writers a rough draft of a new book or at least several thousand words toward such a project.

Did I win by writing 50,000 words?  Nope!  But I still won by participating.

Nanowrimo forced me to get back to working on my sequel suspense novel and because of the discipline of having to write something every day in November, I now have some 17,000 more words added to my book and a much clearer understanding of not only my ending, but also the areas I will now revise and rewrite to make the book its best.

Did I participate in Nano this year in hopes of finally winning with 50,000?  A part of me would have liked to have achieved such a lofty goal.

Am I disappointed that I didn’t cross the perverbial finish line so to speak?  Absolutely not!

All writers know that writing is a solitary job.  Having the discipline to stick with a long project like a book manuscript requires isolation from others (both online and off) and a real commitment to sitting down and fleshing out the story.  With all of life’s distractions, getting ample time to finish such a project can be extremely difficult.  Nanowrimo provides just the push that I need, especially at a time of year when life is busier with the impending holiday celebrations.

Thanks Nanowrimo for another great year!  You kick-started my first novel which definitely helped me on the road to having it published.  Hopefully, my sequel won’t be far behind.

April 6, 2009

What I learned from writing my first Suspense Novel

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It’s taken a while to get what I believe is a solid, polished suspense novel.  I’ve revised, rewritten and reviewed.  I’ve read and re-read.  I’ve had a professional critique done by a published author in my genre.  And I’ve sent my final revision through my long time, online critique group. 

I’ve even decided to try publishers first, instead of agents.  Why?  Well, that’s another post.

So what did I learn?

As I continue writing my second suspense novel, I cannot believe how much more critically I’m analyzing my writing.  My characters are stronger and I’m really enjoying finding new ways to make my readers want to turn the pages.  I’m seeing the big picture from the book and not just one chapter at a time. 

I don’t believe that my revision process on this second book will need to be as extensive as it was on my first book.  I’ve learned so much.  In fact, although I enjoyed writing the first book, I have to admit, it was a lot of work.  Now, I’m not saying the second book won’t be work, but my first draft of this book is already far ahead of my first book.  I’ve already eliminated much of the revising I had to do on the first book just by knowing more as I write this second manuscript.

What is the most important thing I’ve learned from this experience so far?

Never give up!

I’ve found my niche.  I love suspense.  I want to make my readers jump.  I want to hit my characters with obstacles and situations that cause them to really have to think.  And I have to admit, I love writing the villains. 

No writing you ever do, whether it’s published or not, is ever a waste.  Just keep writing and honing your craft and enjoying the journey along the way.

November 26, 2008

How to write a novel – web resources

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Not everyone can afford to enroll in creative writing classes, but that doesn’t mean a new writer is doomed to remain looking like an amateur.  There are a lot of “free” resources online with advice, methods, and guidelines to writing that first novel and I’d like to share some of them with my readers.  Enjoy!

http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php
The Snowflake Method

http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Novel
A WikiHow article

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/novelwriting/Writing_a_Novel.htm
Lots of links etc. from About.com

http://www.spacejock.com.au/WriteANovel.html
author Simon Haynes shares info. on many aspects of novel writing

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2006/09/06/how-to-write-a-novel/
Advice from published author Justine Larbalestier

http://www.secretgeek.net/NonWriter.asp
A humorous article on how not to write a novel

http://www.deepgenre.com/wordpress/admin/craft/how-to-write-a-novel-part-1
Check out this wordpress blog on novel writing

Also check out http://www.amazon.com and type “how to write a novel” into the search box for thousands of books related to this subject.

Okay, I’ve done a bit of the groundwork for you.  But don’t spend all your time reading the “how tos” and the “how not tos”.  Get out that pad and paper or your laptop and get writing. 

That’s the only real way anyone ever wrote a novel.  You have to write!

Good luck with your book

October 18, 2008

It’s NANO time again

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I guess I really must be a writer.  I can’t imagine a day without writing something.  It’s right up there with breathing, sleeping, and of course, coffee.

I just got an email from the Nanowrimo organizers, reminding me that Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Event) will begin November 1st.  For those of you who remember, I did my first Nano event last year and managed about 36,000 words (if I remember correctly).

Now considering that I’ve tried to immerse myself in the Muse free writing conference this week, and still have a full-time job, extra curricular groups and a life (sort of, LOL), I wondered whether or not I should just let Nanowrimo pass this year.

Nope – can’t do it!

I’ve been waffling on a book idea for a couple of years now, but never seem to sit down and do more than scribble a couple quick points into a notebook now and then.  But, if I were to do Nanowrimo, I could actually work on this new book and see where it goes.

Yep – that’s all the persuading it took.  I’m registered and anxiously awaiting the start of this year’s Nano experience.

If you’ve got a book in you that you’ve always wanted to write, and I think almost everybody does, then why not sign up and try the Nanowrimo challenge for the month of November.  Even if you only write a few thousand words, it’ll be more than you’d likely do if you didn’t participate in the Nano event at all.

So here’s my challenge to all of you who want to write a novel.  Get thee to the Nanowrimo site, create a username and password, and register yourself for a crazy ride as you try to complete 50,000 words by Nov. 30th.

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Hope to see you there!

June 30, 2008

Suspense/mystery links

Just thought I’d share some links that might be of interest to other suspense/mystery/thriller novelists.

http://www.hycyber.com/MYST/myst_writers.html
Alphabetical listing of mystery and suspense writers

http://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/michelemartinez.htm
Writing Suspense (article)

http://www.lisagardner.com/tricks/index.htm
Lisa Gardner’s site – articles, tips, tricks, etc.

http://www.hackman-adams.com/articles/index.htm
Lots of links about “thrillers”

http://ezinearticles.com/?Seven-Ways-to-Inject-Suspense-into-Your-Novel&id=177867
How to inject suspense into your novel (article)

http://www.mysterymentor.com/
Marilyn Henderson’s website (the author who did the professional critique of my
suspense novel)

http://www.thrillerwriters.org/thrillerfest/
ThrillerFest 2008

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/tp/mysteryrules.htm
Ten rules of good mystery writing

http://www.poewar.com/mystery/
Ten tips for writing your mystery novel (but many of the tips just apply to good
novel writing in general)

http://www.writingclasses.com/CourseDescriptionPages/GenrePages.php/type/O/ClassGenreCode/MY
Mystery writing courses

June 19, 2008

I owe it all to Mary Higgins Clark

As you all know, I’m furiously working on my final (I say this “tongue-in-cheek”) revision of my adult suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”.  It’s been a lengthy project for a couple of reasons.  After writing and rewriting, I decided to put my novel through a critique group and professional critique, adding more time to the year or so I had previously spent writing my first draft.

Sometimes as I sit in front of my computer screen, wading through all the critiques and weighing in on the suggestions from my peers, I wonder why I continue to plod along on this project.  Look at the odds.  It’s harder than ever for a first-time author to get a book deal these days.  More and more publishers are closing their houses to unsolicited subs.  And then there’s the catch-22 of needing an agent to get published vs. being published to get an agent.

Sometimes, when I’m stuck (usually doing research), I enjoy a trip to a local bookstore.  Seeing all the books lining the shelves reminds me that each of those authors had to start somewhere and hey, if they can do it, why not me?  And then I meandor over to the fiction section where the suspense/mystery/thrillers are kept and see the plethora of titles by Mary Higgins Clark.

I’ve read Mary’s books for longer than I can remember and I continue to enjoy how she interweaves her characters and plot twists into stories that keep me guessing until the last pages.  She has twenty-six suspense novels to her credit and her next one, “Where are you now?” comes out later this year.

But Mary Higgins Clark didn’t have an easy time of things.  She grew up in a one parent family (after her father passed away) and sought out a more prolific career in an ad agency before trying her hand at her passion, writing.  In 1956, she sold her first short story.  Even after marrying, Mary faced a huge challenge when her husband died, leaving her alone to raise five children.

Every time I think about not having enough time to write or how life is getting in the way of my creativity, I immediately see this young woman, getting up at 5 a.m. every day so that she would have 2 hours to write before her children woke up and had to get ready for school. 

I guess I’d have to say that I owe it all to my inspiration, Mary Higgins Clark.  Her story, her books and her accomplishments are what help keep me motivated when it would be easier to give up.

For more news on Mary Higgins Clark, check out this site:

http://www.simonsays.com/content/destination.cfm?sid=33&pid=352932

So thank-you, Mary Higgins Clark. 

Who or what keeps you going?

November 27, 2007

Critique Groups: Every writer should belong to at least one

Where I live, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to gather together with other writers.  There is a group that meets at our local library, however, due to the nature of my business, I cannot make the meetings. 

I used to think I was alone – isolated in a place geographically removed from the big city life of the publishing business. 

But with the internet, I’m only a click away from connecting with writers all over the world, in any genre, and at every level from raw beginner to professionally published.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re a writer.  Of course everything you write is good – you wrote it.  And yes, for the most part, we writers do realize our first drafts aren’t polished enough to sub out so we accept the task of revising.

But…we only have our own close relationship with our ideas, words, characters and scenerios from which to draw.  Every writer needs feedback from fresh eyes.

Relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers may want to read your prose, but often their feedback isn’t entirely honest.  Either they love everything you do (and who wouldn’t find that encouraging, right?) or they suggest, based on a complete lack of any knowledge of the writing world, what they think you should do to improve your manuscript.  Although at times their perspectives can be helpful, more often you need to connect with other writers.

So naturally, as a writer, you consider joining a critique group.  There are those groups that meet face to face and those that meet online.  I’m sure I could start a healthy debate on which of the two are the better scenerio but instead I think I’ll leave that up to the individual writer. 

Personally, I’ve gone the online route, out of necessity, and find it to be a wonderful forum.  I think it could be easier to be totally honest when critiquing the writing of a fellow critique group member when you aren’t sitting, looking into their disappointed face as you endeavour to offer your suggestions, changes and heaven forbid, criticisms.

I’ve been extremely lucky to find two very diverse critique groups, one for my kidlit rhyming PBs and the other for my novels. 

My rhyming group, originally posted on MSN, has gone private and contains 10 members, several of whom have belonged to the group now for many years.  Every single person in this rhyming crit group has seen at least one of their pieces published in a paying market.  A couple have broken into the PB market although most have had more success with shorter rhyming pieces published in magazines.  Nonetheless, the level of writing in each individual has grown and matured.  We’re friends on one level, co-workers on another, and brutally honest critiquers when necessary. 

My prose critique group formed through a now defunct writing site.  We migrated away from the site and the same six writers have been together for several years now.  We have developed close, online friendships.  One of our group has an MG novel coming out in 2008 and it’s an amazing fantasy that will easily compete with some of the most sold and read rivals in this genre.  Others in the group have been paid for articles and illustrations.  Several have had requests from agents for full manuscripts and are waiting for representation. 

Without them, my suspense thriller novel wouldn’t be where it is today. 

The writers in both of these groups represent a cross section of business knowledge, writing styles, and the opinions of those readers we hope to snag into buying our books for years to come.

If you want a shot at getting published, do these things:

1.   Familiarize yourself with the markets and the publishing biz.

2.   Write your best work and don’t be satisfied with anything less.

3.   Join a critique group and let them give your manuscript the
      onceover.

4.  Attend writing workshops whenever possible.

5.  Use the internet to network with other writers, editors, agents,
     and publishers on the many forums available.

6.  And most important of all…never ever give up!

November 19, 2007

At nearly 26,000 words, I think I finally have a story

So Nanowrimo is consuming all my free time this month, but that’s okay because I’ve never written so much in such a short time. 

For a time, I was concerned that my chosen book to do in this month long challenge was nothing more than wordage…a bunch of letters on paper and nothing salvagable. 

But I’ve hung in there and the story is really starting to take shape at last.  My characters are helping me weave my way through the plot and although the book’s not exactly what I pictured it to be, it is finally taking shape and resembling a book.

So now I’m inspired to keep going and to find out where it’s all leading. 

And best of all, I’ve stopped editing it.  It’s supposed to be a first draft and I’m at peace with that now. 

So if you’re struggling through your Nano project and wondering “What’s the point?”, don’t despair.  Just keep going. Keep putting words to page.  Keep following ideas, even if they lead you in different directions. 

But most of all…keep going.

November 9, 2007

Nanowrimo continues

Okay so I finally got inspired and decided to stick with the first novel I started.  I’m at 6,773 words and finally getting into this second “woman in peril” type suspense novel. 

 But do I care if I make the 50,000 words in a month? 

Well…maybe just a little. It would be nice to be able to say I did accomplish that but Nanowrimo has fueled my writing and made me more productive and that was my main goal when I signed up.

Now if only someone could start a Subawrimo to get me back to sending out those children’s PBs completed. 

November 5, 2007

Nanowrimo – not for the faint of heart

Anyone wanting to write and complete a novel should check out Nanowrimo.  It’s the November novel writing challenge that’s free to join.  Participants write madly for 30 days in the hopes of completing a 50,000 word novel in that time.  Yep – it’s a first draft but it’s a finished book, right?

 So, I’m torn between 2 projects and finally chose an adult suspense novel called “Losing Charlotte” that I am working on.  But after nearly 2,000 words, I’m not sure this is the book I should have picked.  Hmmm…do I switch mid-stream and try my hand at the more comical manuscript also brewing in my mind:  “Quick!  Pass the Chips”? 

 What’s a writer to do????

Please comment if you’re doing Nanowrimo this year or even if you just want to know more about it.  It’s my first time but I can try to answer any questions you might have.

Check them out at:  http://www.nanowrimo.org/

It’s still not too late to get in on all the fun, stress and best of all…writing.

October 1, 2007

My first Suspense/Thriller Novel

Novel revision #5

    
I’ve been working on an adult thriller novel now for about 2 years. First came the idea and the main character, who literally demanded that I tell her story. Next came the first draft and as a naive newbie to the genre of novel writing, I actually thought it was pretty good.  That draft made the rounds through a couple of friends and soon I had an abundance of material to start my first revision. 

Revisions #2 and #3 came close together as I tweaked and changed and re-arranged a plethora of ideas until I was certain I had a wonderfully revised manuscript.  But was it ready to send out there to agents and publishers? 

Just in case I really wan’t able to see my novel for what it was, I decided to hire a professional author who also does in-depth critiques of manuscripts.  I selected Marilyn Henderson, an American author of numerous books in my field – the suspense thriller.  Her feedback came quickly and although upon first read I felt discouraged, after sifting through the 12 pages of commentary from her, I realized that she knew the business and although she had good things to say about my book, it lacked saleability.

So then came revision #4.  It took a while to cut unnecessary characters, scenes and even full chapters and then re-invent parts of other chapters to keep the book flowing.  So now you’d think I would just send out the manuscript and wait for all the requests for the entire manuscript.  Nope! 

I have one more revision in the works and yes, this is the final one.  I’m sending it through my online critique group to tweak anything that jumps out at them.  Most of the chapters have rec’d rave reviews but minute details have popped up and been caught thanks to this group of writers.

Revision #5 will be the one that goes out there into the world.  I’ve also been researching agents and publishers so that I send to the most appropriate markets.

Wish me luck.

All things writing

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