Ask me a question about writing

Today, it's your turn. Ask me a question about anything to do with writing, critiquing, editing or publishing! If it's straightforward to answer, I'll compile some questions and answers and put them in a post. If the answer needs a whole blog post, I'll do that, too. If you don't want to post in the comments section here, feel free to email me at sherryl (at) ebooks4writers (dot) com. Join in the discussion! … [Read more...]

Life writing and fiction: too much or too little?

Recently I’ve critiqued several fiction works that were at least partially (if not completely) based on the author’s own experiences. We all do this, of course. We give our characters our own reactions to terrible and wonderful things, we use our memories of events and people to create action and character, and we even use overheard or remembered conversations as a basis for our dialogue. In other words, every fiction writer uses snippets in different ways. But when you write something that … [Read more...]

Using secrets in fiction

There's a writing exercise I've used a few times which tends to strike fear into almost everyone in the class. I first saw it used about 20 years ago, and I admit at the time I "fudged" my contribution. What is it? It requires everyone in the class or group to write down a secret they've never told anyone, and put their piece of paper into a hat, which is then passed around so that everyone receives someone else's secret, and must then write about it. It does have a "get out safely" option - you … [Read more...]

Getting your novel logistics right

While we struggle with deepening our characters, filling plot gaps, strengthening structure and all those other novel elements, often we forget how the “simple” things can trip up our story or, even worse, cause readers to lose faith in our ability to tell a story that holds together. How often have you read something and thought Hold on, that character couldn’t possibly have travelled so far in that time? Or Didn’t this story start on a Tuesday, but now it’s Monday? Or even This house is … [Read more...]

Creating your writing space

Over on my other blog, I've been writing about solitude and how much we writers need it. Not just for writing, but for thinking and dreaming. Yet so often this needs to begin with your physical space. Some writers are lucky to have a whole room for themselves, away from the household and the general noise. I know a few who rent writing rooms in community spaces, and some who write in cafes and public places. At home, a writing space/place can be an issue when you share with others and there … [Read more...]

Creating your own 28 day writing challenge

Over on my other blog, I've been reporting on a recent challenge I undertook. Simply, it was to write for 30 minutes every day for 28 days. The second part of this was to have at least one accountability partner, and check in with them when you had done your 30. So this is how you do it: * Find at least one accountability partner. They don't have to be a writer, although I think this helps. They can choose to do their 30 minutes as walking, or meditation, or practising the piano. * … [Read more...]

Why a great title is worth the effort

A lot of people have asked me how I come up with my book titles. I have to say that writing poems is incredibly useful, because you need a title for every poem (unless you wimp out and give them numbers) and after the first 100 or so, you simply get better at it. Some titles have come to me seemingly out of nowhere. The Too-Tight Tutu, which always makes people laugh, just popped out after I’d written the first draft, but there are other books that have had more than a dozen alternatives, and … [Read more...]

The mechanics of your novel: where, when, what

While it’s a wonderful feeling to launch into your first draft, visualizing your characters, following your plot outline or writing “by the seat of your pants” and making up dynamic dialogue, at some point you will start getting into trouble with contradictions. These are usually the ones you create yourself! For example, back in Chapter 2, the house had three bedrooms and now it has four. In Chapter 3 it took the characters 5 minutes to run down to the river, now it takes 20 minutes and the … [Read more...]

Working with extra-ordinary narrators

Most people struggle with first person point-of-view narrators. Successful first person can make the reader feel close to the narrator, what they’re feeling and thinking. But what about a narrator who is bizarre, mentally ill, or different in a way that affects not only their voice but their whole world-view? How can you write a character like that and convince your reader? How do you stay credible? Ever since The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, it seems more and … [Read more...]

What percentage of your writing is worth publishing?

When I first started writing, I think the percentage of my work that was “worth publishing” was pretty close to zero. Isn’t that true of most writers? We start tentatively putting words on the page, unsure if we are communicating effectively even with ourselves, let alone any outside audience. We might have a burning story to tell, but however much it burns inside of us, our audience won’t be interested in reading it until our writing abilities and skills have improved enough. What is enough? … [Read more...]