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Basic advice on editing your novel

First, you need to realize there are two basic different types of editing. There is line editing and plot editing (also called development editing).

Plot Editing

editingPlot editing is the guts of your novel. It’s not only the plot itself, but your characterizations and dialogue, structure and narrative. A lot of it is your style of telling your story. These things are important because you want your plot to make sense logically, your characters need to stand out from one another, and the characters’ dialogue needs to be appropriate and distinct; you don’t want all your characters to talk exactly the same because it’s boring to the reader. To add, your story structure needs to flow well to keep your plot moving. Narrative needs to remain consistent. All of this will help the reader enjoy their experience with your book all the more, and could have them wanting to see more work from you. Also, following these tips will make your writing appear strong to editors and publishers, and you want to look good to those people if you want to be a published novelist. Continue reading Basic advice on editing your novel

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Writers: Coping with negative reviews

writers writerDealing with negative reviews

If you are a short story writer or a novelist or even a non-fiction writer, not everyone is going to appreciate your work. In fact, some folks might downright hate it. And a lot of them are very vocal, especially online. They might write reviews on Amazon, or they might write reviews for other Web sites having to do with books, publishing, writing, etc.

Some of the reviews are going to make you angry. Why couldn’t that idiot see the genius of what you were doing? Some reviews might make you sad. Why did that reviewer have to be a meany and hurt your feelings when they don’t even know you?

It happens. The best advice I can give is to get over it. Everyone has their opinions, and not all of them are going to match with yours.

If you’re overly touchy about your writing, don’t even bother reading the reviews. Just stay away from them. If you can hack it, then go ahead and read the reviews, take any positive criticism you can find, remember to put it to work in the future if you can, and move on.

That’s the best thing you can do. Sulking about reviews isn’t going to help get your next story or article written. Crying over reviews is only going to hurt and stilt your potential.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that if you have plenty of reviews, negative and possibly positive, which mention or focus upon a particular matter, then perhaps you should pay attention. Maybe it’s something you need to work on in your writing.

Just remember, human beings often have a capacity to focus on the negative. For every bad review you might receive, there were probably 20 people who liked your story or book just fine, but they didn’t comment. It might seem unfair, but it’s often how life works.

And remember, you can help out others by leaving positive reviews for books and stories you’ve read. What goes around comes around, the old saying goes, and maybe a little of that will come back to you.

One last thing: Always keep in mind that not everything you write is for everyone. For example, if you write in one particular genre, fans of another genre aren’t necessarily going to like your work (though they might). If you write with a particular political, social, intellectual or religious slant, you’re definitely not going to make everyone happy. None of that means you shouldn’t write. It means you just need to be aware of your audience and that you shouldn’t try to make everyone happy.

After all, you can’t make everyone happy, you can’t make everyone love your writing. So don’t focus on the negatives. Instead, focus on becoming a better writer.

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No, I will not write your book for you

write book writersWriters hear it all the time, especially fiction writers. “Hey, I’ve got a story idea for you!” Really? How nice. Often the person with the story idea is only trying to be helpful, but other times they have dollar signs in their eyes. For that second type of person, words to this nature usually soon come spewing forth, “How about I give you the idea, you write it and sell it and we split the profits?” Continue reading No, I will not write your book for you

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Write, but don’t expect to learn it from others

writeOther people can’t teach you to write. Even the greatest writers of all time can’t teach you to write. Shakespeare? No. Stephen King? No. Hemingway? Not a chance.

They can offer advice. They can let you know what works for them. But the truth is, what works for them might not work for you or for your readers or potential readers.

For example, more than a decade back, I broke through a struggle with writer’s block by studying screenwriting. Basically, the formatting of screenwriting helped me to formulate story plots in my mind, which helped me get over fears of writing and publishing, etc. This won’t work for everyone. To other people, screenwriting might look like more trouble than it’s worth, or it just might not appeal to them for other reasons. For me, it was a huge aid.

There are plenty of how-to and self-help books out there about writing, many of them quite excellent. But the truth of the matter is, you can only become a good writer by writing. And reading, that helps, too.

Yes, it all falls on your own shoulders. Each writer is different, works in different ways and has different mindsets. Some writers can pump out 10,000 words a day and have a novel finished in a week or two. Other writers can only creep along at a hundred or so words a day, taking a year or five to finish a book. Writers are just different, despite some similarities in how we might work or write or think.

This doesn’t have to mean you’re completely on your own. Talking with other writers, or even joining a critique group, can help to improve your writing by giving you others’ opinions about your work. Just remember that it’s your writing. You’re the one in charge. Advice from others can be helpful, but don’t let it overrule your own visions. But don’t be stubborn, either. If something doesn’t work and a hundred others tell you it doesn’t work, you need to seriously consider approaching the matter from a different perspective. At least if you’re hoping for publication.

Keep in mind, you can read a thousand books about writing, but you’ll never improve your skills (and your marketability) until you actually do some writing. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be able to tell when your skills are improving. Just don’t be in such a hurry. It takes time, longer for some than others.

A good teacher or three can help you with the basics, such as punctuation and grammar, etc., but those are just the bones of structure. You have to be the one to build the muscles, the organs, the rest of the body.

Good luck out there.

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World Building in Dune

DuneHey guys, Professor Bill of Comic Book University here, and I really want to thank everyone who commented and contributed to my last two articles. That says a lot about your love for the Open Legend content and the campaign.

This week I just want to chillax a little and talk about Dune, my hands down favorite sci-fi story ever. Continue reading World Building in Dune

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Fantasy writers deserve not to be pigeonholed

The Pillars of the Earth writers
The Pillars of the Earth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writers of history

A while back I was in an online forum filled with fellow writers. The majority of writers and authors on the site were thriller and romance writers … the “acceptable” genres.

While there I noticed a posting about historical fiction, asking what are some favorite historical novels and short stories. I started salivating because I could think of tons of historical fiction books and tales I love. Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove comes to mind, as does Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series. James Clavell’s Shogun is also a favorite, as are Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth. I also thought of Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire novel and Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum. Just about anything written by Alexandre Dumas springs to my mind as a favorite. Continue reading Fantasy writers deserve not to be pigeonholed

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In fiction, ‘darkness’ is in the eye of the beholder

kobalos trilogyAs a fiction writer, I tend to mostly work in the fields of fantasy and horror. I don’t consider my fantasy works especially dark, nor do I consider most of my horror to be overly gory.

But readers as individuals have different tastes and wants in their literature. Why, just recently I had a reader e-mail me asking me about the darkness in my fantasy series, The Kobalos Trilogy. I was not surprised, but as recently as a couple of years ago I would have been.

When I first set out to write The Kobalos Trilogy, I wasn’t planning on writing dark fantasy. I was thinking of writing epic fantasy, but I didn’t want it to be huge epic fantasy, if you know what I mean. Yes, there’s a bit of traveling and a dark mage and some of the tropes of epic fantasy, but I wanted the story to mostly focus upon a core group of individuals, a half dozen or so people, instead of spanning across nations and armies and whole populations. In the end, I believe I mostly accomplished what I set out to do in those regards, though there is a touch of a broader, world-spanning plot.

Also, something else I wanted to do was to make the violence in my fantasy to seem realistic, not to be overly bloody or gory, but to have some of the emotional impact that violence does in real life. When one of my characters kills someone, I want it to mean something, to have an emotional impact upon the reader. Which is one of the reasons I don’t use non-humans in my fantasy, because I feel such characters limit the emotional relevance to many readers. I see far too many fantasy novels filled with heroes who slash aside orcs or goblins or other meanies without there being anything real to it; the bad guys are just bad guys and stand-ins for any kind of bad guys (not that there isn’t a place for those stories as well, but they’re not what I wish to write). Violence has real-life repercussions, regardless of whether it’s committed by some sordid serial murderer or a patriotic hero waving a flag; there might be different levels of the violence, different reasons behind it and different repercussions, but they are there. Violence of any type by any person leaves no one without scars, often not even the perpetrator of the violence.

Darkness and horror

What brought this to mind, besides the one e-mail from a reader, was my own recent readings. Upon the recommendations of various friends of colleagues, I’ve read several fantasy novels lately that have been labeled as “dark.” Some of these novels are from traditional print authors, while some are from indie authors.

None of them have I found overly dark. Violent, perhaps. Bloody, sometimes. Dark? Nope.

horror
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is the difference, at least for me? To me, “dark” literature is fiction that explores the debased side of humanity, our darker thoughts, ideas, etc., what some might call evil and/or the disturbed. To my way of thinking, blood and horror and gore and violence in and of themselves are not necessarily dark, sometimes being little more than titillation, what late author John Gardner said celebrates “the trifling.”

True dark literature, in my opinion, goes beyond the mere physical acts of violence and explores the emotional depths of the darker sides of humanity.

For example, despite the large numbers of murders and deaths, I wouldn’t consider the Friday the 13th series of movies to be overly dark. Gruesome at times, yes. Dark, not on your life.

Keeping with an example from film, Apocalypse Now I find to be a truly dark film. Yes, it has its blood and gore and its fair share of battle scenes, but it goes beyond this to explore the emotional effects of the Vietnam War on soldiers, the effects of violence and madness, the outgrowth into more violence and madness, etc.

horror
Stephen King, American author best known for his enormously popular horror novels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To that end, such novels as Fight Club and Moby Dick I consider “dark” literature, though they are not necessarily overly gore-filled. On the other hand, I don’t consider most horror novels as truly dark literature, though there are exceptions. Clive Barker writes dark fiction, sometimes so does Neil Gaiman, but honestly, despite my liking of his writing style, I don’t consider most of the works of Stephen King as overly dark, as horror-ific as some of them might be.

Now, I freely admit I’m simply offering my own opinion here. I’m not suggesting no other opinions are valid. This is just how I see things.

So what are your thoughts on dark fiction?