2014 in review

12 posts and pages from 2014:

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1) PRIORITIES: Eisenhower’s Decision Matrix 2) Crafting Chapter One: Resources for Writers 3) 10 Steps to Finishing a Novel

Telling and Selling Stories the Video Game Way | Write Lara Writedialoguedashes

4) Telling and Selling Stories the Video Game Way 5) 7 Tips for Writing Realistic Dialogue 6) Quick & Easy Guide to Dashes


7) Formatting your Novel Manuscript (3 part series) 8) Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Sub-genres 9) Successful Twitter Pitches

MSFQueryquerylaraMs Edits

10) The Kinds of Queries that Work, from Query Shark 11) Query Workshops (ongoing series) 12) Editing Prices

Author Interviews:



Top archive posts of 2014:

  1. An Introduction to Characters: MBTI and Characters: MBTI continued
  2. Character Profile Worksheets
  3. Diction: Latinate versus Anglo-Saxon
  4. The 8 C’s of Plotting: Worksheets and Introduction
  5. Chapter Outlining like a Pantser
  6. POV Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3
  7. 7 Writing Maxims and What to Do with Them
  8. Quiz: How should you start your novel?
  9. Naming Characters: Charactonym
  10. Story Berg and Goal Boat: A Lesson in Backstory and Goals

Writing without Words

Wait a minute here. Writing is using words, isn’t it? Yes, but it’s also more than that.

Often when I listen to how people evaluate stories, I hear them talk about dialogue. When they talk about the script for a film, they are often talking about the dialogue. Or when they mention how well a book is written, they most often mean the way the words are put together—the beauty of a sentence.

When people speak of Shakespeare’s work, they almost always talk about the beauty of the language.

These are all forms of visible ink. This term refers to writing that is readily seen by the reader or viewer, who often mistakes these words on the page as the only writing the storyteller is doing.

But how events in a story are ordered is also writing. What events should occur in a story to make the tellers point is also writing. Why a character behaves in a particular way is also writing.

These are all forms of invisible ink, so called because they are not easily spotted by a reader, viewer, or listener of a story. Invisible ink does, however, have a profound impact on a story. More to the point, it is the story. Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words. Most people will never see or notice it, but they will feel it.

—Brian McDonald, Invisible Ink, Chapter One. All quoted text is copyright original author. Emphasis mine.

Yesterday I started reading Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald. It was incredibly difficult to put down, and if I hadn’t had house guests that afternoon, I would have finished it in one sitting. Today I finished it.

I’ve read A LOT of books on writing. I own a bookcase—not just one or two shelvesfilled with books on the subject, and I have read dozens more. Most books repeat what others have said before them. Never have I read a book on storytelling that has so much original content as Invisible Ink. There were several subjects from the book of which I had not heard before, or had not seen explained well until reading the book.

Here’s a quick summary of some of the wisdom McDonald, who often consults for Pixar, offers in Invisible Ink:

  • Writing is more than just the words on the page.
  • The Seven Easy Steps to a Better Story
  • Establish the story’s reality at the beginning.
  • The idea of your story (sometimes referred to as “theme”) is the armature of your story.
  • Every moment in the story should illustrate the idea—otherwise it is superfluous. “Every decision you make should be based on the idea of dramatizing your armature idea.” (Chapter 3)
  • “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” (Chapter 3)
  • Jokes can teach you a thing or two about structure and set up.
  • The use of “clones” is a tool that master writers use to show, not tell, their idea.
  • Each character needs to serve a purpose in the story. Comic relief is not a purpose.
  • Have characters experience their own personal hell. It will make them better people.
  • Speak the truth, not the facts.
  • The best stories have “masculine” and “feminine” parts. Physical action and plot (“masculine”) as well as emotional truth (“feminine”).
  • The best stories transcend genre—anyone can enjoy them.
  • Don’t write subplots. Write supporting plots.
  • “You are a slave to your story, not a master.” (Ch. 5)
  • Think of the audience (Address and Dismiss, Address and Explain, Superior Position), but don’t bring attention to yourself as writer.
  • Once you pay attention to theme, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t in other stories.

This is an outstanding book and fast read. Grab a copy and read it. Highlight the head-scratchers. McDonald gives really great examples of his points using movies and books. Think theme isn’t important? Think morals in books are preachy? Check out Invisible Ink, and chances are McDonald will show you why your favorite stories have made such an impression on you.

Until Friday, dear readers.

School is in Session

With Labor Day over and out, kids are back in school and I figure there’s no better time for me than the present to get my act together! Forget New Year’s resolutions—you don’t have to wait that long. We need to Write, Now! Here are my goals (perhaps “aspirations” is a better term) for the new school year, in no particular order:

  • Write EVERY [week] DAY
  • Schedule a time to work every day
  • Use my typewriter more often so am not distracted by the interwebs
  • Use my typewriter more often so I can’t go back and edit while writing
  • Read more books in the genre in which I am writing
  • Read at least on week nights so I can get through said books
  • Write, even if/though the first draft really is utter crap

I’ve been doing pretty well so far. (It’s been three whole days.) Today I typed 6 pages on my typewriter, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s certainly more than I’ve been doing lately, and not being able to delete anything is going to be a good challenge.

On Tuesday I picked up a couple books from the library: The Encyclopedia of Medieval Times, Volumes I and II, and this gem: How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide

It’s bitingly sardonic, so if you don’t have a sense of humor, leave this one on the shelf. But if you do have a sense of humor, this is definitely one of the most entertaining books on the subject. Do note that there is a chapter on how NOT to write a sex scene, and there’s some colorful language. So if you are sensitive to that sort of thing, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Bethany asked a question on an older post about what kind of technology I use to write, and mentioned Scrivener. You can read my response here, but I basically said I didn’t find Scrivener to be something I needed to purchase after the free trial. I use Evernote all the time because it syncs across my devices, but as I am trying to wean myself from being continually distracted by the internet, I’m going old school and unplugging more often. I’ve printed out worksheets, put them in a binder, and started to type on my typewriter, as mentioned above. It’s working pretty well for me. Better even than paper and pencil, because the text is legible, I write faster, and my hands are less likely to cramp up. Though I will go back to pen and paper when I do my edits. There’s nothing like a nasty red pen bleeding on a field of black and white.

Whether you are enrolled at school or not, what are your goals for the school year?

As luck would have it…

…I’m holding a miserable, feverish toddler in my arms who very well may have 1) another ear infection or 2) strep throat. Difficult to diagnose when one is dealing with a mute toddler (mute except for the pitiful whining, that is. Poor baby!)

But I keep good on my word and don’t want to leave you with nothing, so I’m going to direct you to my review of Heat Wave by “Richard Castle” and ask you this:

Have you ever learned a valuable lesson in how not to write while reading? What was the lesson?

I look forward to your answers while I nurse my sick baby back to health.