Looking Back: A Retrospective Narrative That Appeals to the Senses

The only stories that matter are those we inhabit personally, not just with our minds, but through our senses. Remember: the fiction writer’s job (or that of any storyteller) isn’t to report experience, but to create it. And experience is processed in the mind by way of the senses.

Throat Clearing: When Your Story Opening Is in Search of Itself

Some story openings happen to get the author’s pen rolling, to blow some warmth onto the icy blank page, to get the narrative blood flowing. Those not charitably inclined will call it “throat clearing.” However it’s characterized, throat clearing should be cut. It’s there for the author, not for the reader.

Starting Later & Starting Over: Launching a Writing Career When You’re No Longer “Young”

Seven-figure deals seem to be given to more 20-something debut writers than debut writers in any other age group, yet Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx started writing at 58—and Frank McCourt began writing in his 60s. Were these writers more talented than younger writers trying to break in at the same time? Or has the industry started gravitating more toward younger writers in recent years? Two literary agents, Sarah Davies and Dr. Uwe Stender, offer their thoughts on the publishing industry’s attitude toward age.

6 Reasons to Relaunch Your Book

Book relaunches can take a variety of forms. If done right, they enhance your overall brand, as well as your book sales. Their first and foremost benefit is the new publication date. Having a new book opens up access to bloggers and media who might not have been available to you with an older book.

Where to Begin: The Search for the Inciting Incident

Where to begin? Of all the questions that harass novelists and others with a story to tell, it has to be the peskiest. The question comes down to structure. Not what happened, i.e. the series of events that make a story, but the order in which those events are conveyed.

Writing About Acts of Violence

Violence can be too sanitized, too tamed into a generic, pre-packaged mold, and so it can’t yield the kind of interesting questions or meditations readers crave, and writers must eventually confront.

How to Use Adjectives Wisely and Judiciously

With modifiers, you want to choose your battles. Just because every noun offers itself up for modification(s) doesn’t mean you should modify it. Think of adjectives as ketchup or hot sauce; put it on everything and it quickly wears out its welcome.

True and False: Two Kinds of Narrative Suspense

“True” suspense raises the question, “What’s going to happen next?” It arises organically and authentically from characters and their actions as conveyed to us through a firmly established, consistent viewpoint. “False suspense” is generated by an author who, intentionally or otherwise, withholds information.

Building Your Business Model as a Writer

Over the last month, I’ve been talking (and writing) about how to build a business model for career that suits your particular strengths as well as the unique quality of your work. Here are my latest appearances.

In Storytelling: Never State What You Can Imply

Telling readers what to think or feel is the job of a propagandist. A storyteller’s main purpose, on the other hand, is to create experiences for the reader, to involve us so deeply, so convincingly, so authentically in those experiences that we feel what characters feel.

Make Your Writing Anxiety Disappear By Thinking Small

Many people I know are ambitious about their writing. Ambition is not bad in and of itself. But it definitely interferes with your writing. If even before you begin a writing project, you are thinking about where you want it to be published and who, you hope, will review it, you are opening the door to anxiety.

Your Characters Don’t Have to Change to Be Compelling

When a character “change” feels beautiful, it’s because the character has confirmed what we’ve hoped or suspected all along. Maybe the character hasn’t changed at all, but rather has finally been put in a situation where her truest self can be revealed.

A Brief History of the Fantasy Genre

While fairy tales are ancient, dating back to the Bronze age, fantasy turns out to be a revival movement, rising from the grave of the recent dead. Mention of the word fantasy is minimal through through the twentieth century, with some peaks here and there depending on your source. Around 1945, fantasy took flight, soaring up and up, well into the twenty-first century. Why the change? What summoned the word fantasy back to life in 1945?

5 On: Ian Thomas Healy

In this 5 On interview, author and publisher Ian Thomas Healy shares what he learned from his experiences with literary agents, what to look for when submitting to small press publishers, his feelings about Amazon KDP Select, and more.

What You Need to Write Your First Book After Age 50  

First and foremost: Set realistic goals. Is this book going to change your life? No. After publication, you will not be a different fifty-plus-year-old person. You will be pretty similar to the person you were before, only this fifty-plus-year-old person has written a book. So ask yourself: What are you hoping to get out of the experience?

The Pleasures of Genre

Literary fiction’s subsumption by other genres and vice-versa has become so pervasive one must wonder what distinction if any can still be claimed by “pure” literary fiction beyond pretentiousness.

Business of Being a Writer

My New Book, The Business of Being a Writer, Is Now Available!

My newest book, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), takes it on principle that learning about the publishing industry can lead to a more positive and productive career. It helps writers feel empowered and confident to navigate an ever-changing field.

There Are Only 2 Types of Stories—and Why That Matters

Why should you care that there are only two story types? It actually matters. Like a chef, knowing what defines the concoction you’re about to create will help you figure out how to make it work. And how to stop it from failing.

Inhabiting Our Scenes: Information Versus Experience

One reason behind the supremacy of the writing rule “Show, don’t tell” is that telling is, frankly, harder. To gain and hold a reader’s attention through action and dialogue is one thing. To do so through exposition is another.

AWP 2018: Tips on the Business of Writing and Publishing

For AWP 2018, I hired a team of writers to help me cover business-related sessions, as part of the launch for my newest book (official release date: March 16). Their blog posts are available over at the companion website for the book.

Why Blog—From the Writer Who Said Goodbye to Blogging

Sometimes going back is going forward—especially if you refashion the old, sloughing off what became untenable. This is why I’m going back to blogging. While every writer won’t find my reasons of interest, plenty of writers might want to explore their possibility.

dead narrators

The Challenge of Pulling Off a Dead Narrator

I have had mixed feelings about ghost narrators. As narrative sleights-of-hand go, it strikes me as a little too easy, a bit too glib. It also requires suspension of all four laws of thermodynamics.

3 Principles of a Successful Freelance Career

When I began working as a freelancer, I wanted to find clients to pay me in the thousands. Once I figured out how to land writing jobs, I was working long hours, always seeking more clients, and somehow still getting paid next to nothing. I was missing something on the business side of things—an essential piece of the puzzle.

5 On: Julie Smith

Author, publisher, and book marketer Julie Smith shares what she loves to write—and read—in a mystery, how her writing obsession evolved into marketing, the mistake many authors make with their book covers, and more.

asking questions

You Can’t Get to “Once Upon a Time” Without “What If?”

Danielle Lazarin: “At every stage of my work, questions are my most essential writing tools. I use them to move through to the other side of murky. It’s only by stepping into that unknown and uncomfortable space repeatedly during my process that I can become more deliberate in the story I’m telling.”

business partner

The Risks and Rewards of Bringing Your Spouse or Partner Into Your Business

There are real risks to working together on a business with your spouse or partner, especially if you are both still learning how to do it well and manage your household through the uncertainty of the start-up existence. Adopting formal agreements on how to interact with one another can help avoid stress and anxiety.

how to get book reviews

The Essential First Step for New Authors: Book Reviews, Not Sales

New authors have no symbolic capital. They are not (yet) known for producing quality books that seduce readers. Is it possible for self-publishing authors to create symbolic capital? Absolutely yes, and many have. In today’s increasing online world of book shopping, it is book reviews that build symbolic capital.

should you typset your own book

Can You (Should You) Typeset Your Own Book?

If people judge books by their covers, then typesetting is the difference between a brief or a lasting impression. The cover may grab a reader’s eye, but what the reader sees when they crack open the book is what will hold their attention.

affordable ways to master book marketing on a budget

4 Affordable Ways to Master Book Marketing

Keeping up with the latest book marketing trends and learning new tactics can be expensive. Couple this with the growing cost of self-publishing, and it’s important that we be economically shrewd in our endeavors. Here’s how.

ebook giveaway strategy

How to Rock a Free Day Promotion for Your eBook

If you are an indie author on Amazon, in Amazon’s Kindle Select Program, you can use five free days to promote your ebook in exchange for three months of exclusivity. Many traditional publishers are increasingly doing free promos as well, and the competition is growing with thousands of free ebooks available every day. So how do you stand out?