You don’t have to choose between planning and “simply writing.” Do both, at different times, all the way through the novel writing process.
Voice: It’s either there in the writing or it’s not. And some writers haven’t developed or “found” their voice yet.
Writer Anthony Doerr once told me something his father told him, and I’ll paraphrase it poorly here: You’re going to get your neck sunburned looking up all the time.
Focusing on the smallest thing you can accomplish: this is the magic trick to making progress or getting unstuck.
When you understand your SWOT as an author, you can take control over your time. You can stop fighting fires, and start focusing on the things that will truly help you in the long run.
How do you describe a character with Asperger’s—especially if your story takes place before such a thing had a name?
The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic,
There’s no one recipe to overcome a creativity wound, but putting a pen between your fingers and then resting it on a piece of paper is a pretty good start to finding one.
Do you write write according to your own internal motivations or creative impulses—with the intention to create serious art—or do you write hoping to create a bond between writer and reader?
Writing a novel requires the creation of a living, breathing, fully populated world. Deities can pull off a trick like that in six days, but how long should it take to write a book?
To some degree, we get to pick and choose our publishing and publicity tasks. Sometimes we forget this and freak out because we think we have to do it all.
In many ways, a portrait photographer encounters the same great issue as fiction writers, chiefly, creating and revealing character.
Despite the notion that we are voiceless, the challenge of a good creative writing instructor is to teach students that they do indeed have a voice and that their voice, that all our voices in concert, have meaning.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Writer Jane Delury discusses the importance of showing up and writing regardless of the conditions you find yourself in, no matter how you feel.
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.”
What I learned from the total eclipse was this: What wasn’t phenomenal? Everywhere I looked, something grand was there for the taking.
There’s a very famous piece of advice from Anne Lamott that occasionally makes the rounds on social media. She says: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” This advice, especially when shared out of context, makes me cringe.
Novelist Sophie Chen Keller offers an incisive look at what’s different about writing a novel for adults when the narrator is a child.
Yes, it is possible to have a very successful writing career later in life—and doing something new later in one’s career helps to keep you young.
I started writing seriously after being diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. Now was the time to do it, or quit talking about it.
Opera is the single Western art in which voice determines character, or, more closely, expresses character. For writers, opera offers a set of finger exercises, if not pointers.
Over a last year, a consistent theme has emerged in my discussions with writers around the country: They feel distracted. What is to be done?
There’s a term thrown around in the world of writing that I’ve never fully understood: emerging writer. To emerge as a writer, or anything else for that matter, you must emerge from one thing into an entirely different something else.
All writers have to find a way to deal with the internal negative voice that tells them their work is crap and not worth pursuing.
Ideally, we’d have all the creativity and energy and desire we need to write amazing stories. However, the truth is, sometimes we hit roadblocks while following through. Here are some of the most common roadblocks and how you might solve them.
In a great story, character and plot are inextricable from one another. The seeds of the story conflict lie in the character.
Here’s a word I have eliminated as fully as possible from my information and advice lexicon for writers: passion.
If there’s something at the heart of the story that still interests you, that keeps pulling you back, that still haunts you years later, then that’s probably a sign that there’s something worth struggling for there.
Every writer’s pet fear stems from the mother of all fears: What other people think of what I write is more important than what I think of what I write.
Writer Katherine Vaz discusses an assignment that is given to every student at her university: to write about “the most important thing ever to happen to me.”
We order; we catalogue. It is, simply, what the human mind excels at.
If fiction writing is something you’d like to pursue in your retirement years, follow these steps to help you prepare for the business of authorship.
Taste is not static. Rather than a fixed endpoint toward which one toils away, it’s a target that moves over the course of a lifetime.
Sometimes that first draft is never going to become a final draft. That doesn’t mean it’s a waste, though.
Any accomplished writer is also a reader—and usually a reader first. For the writer who is the least a bit humble, this sets up one of the most significant psychological barriers to pursuing a writing career: How could I ever produce something as wonderful as [admired writer / admired book]? This is an area that Steven […]
Sometimes endings are designed to satisfy, answering the questions posed along the way. Endings that allow you to leave as easily as you came in. But what if the ending isn’t designed to satisfy?
Productivity is certainly one goal of a retreat. But there are other desired outcomes, such as returning home rested, relaxed, and energized by the time away.
Learn about four tensions you may experience that have the potential to undermine your creative work and leave you feeling stuck.
Why must writers schedule time for residencies and retreats? Because in doing so, we honor an annual appointment with writer self-care.
It’s sometimes easier to cut a piece of writing if you can’t see how to fix it. Just remove the offending bits, job done. But it can deaden a piece.
There are many analogies drawn between writing and sports: exercising your creative muscles, learning to go the distance, pushing up against your limits.
Before you buy another pen-and-pencil set for that writer in your life, consider some gift options that take their digital lives into consideration.
The most successful people in every industry use goals as road maps to help them reach their desired destination. It’s no different for writers.
Author Kurt Rheinheimer discusses how the most precious vein for material is from just before he knew who he was and what was going on.
There are countless ways to defeat ourselves, but the biggest and worst is to make the task too big and then feel daunted before we ever start
Watch my 30-minute talk on how to bring together the art and business sides of your career in a way that doesn’t feel like a bad marriage.