Write the sequel. If that all you want to write, you write the fuck out of it. I read in Bird by Bird that if you write a 3x3 sized picture worth a day, you are a writer. That amount would give you time to spend with your wife. I would not recommend self publishing. You have an agent; You've obviously written a wonderful book. You need to keep looking for a publisher. Even a smaller one. So terribly fucking sorry to hear about your wife. Best of luck. You are a true writer.
I agree. However, I think "writers" are sometimes too absolute about their rules. I think writers will often chisel out rules like this and hold them to the sky like scripture. Like they are the one and only way into Writer's Heaven. These people keep The Elements of Style on their bedside table like it will save their writer's soul. Then in the morning they glide into the streets in their perfect white gowns covered in the most fashionable of words and approved imagery and they search the street corners for the poor hobos that are spilling their hearts in an endless stream of adverbs. And they chuckle to themselves in their arrogance. "Thank you that I am not like one of these, oh Lord Strunk and White. That I am not like the pariah that use words like "suddenly" while writing about how their mother loved them as ours never will."
We should be cautious with our words. We should challenge each of them. Take none of them for granted. And force every rule to work for its bread. And if the moment ever comes when something happens in an instant, we should never be afraid to utter such a bastard word as "suddenly" without our spirit being damned to Writer's Hell.
Especially in dialog. For heaven's sake stop making characters that talk like writers write.
That's one of the great things I got from King's On Writing, that there's nothing wrong with just writing a bunch of weird genre fiction instead of spending years putting together a literary masterpiece, because the first option at least gives you a chance to have a job writing novels.
I 100% second this advice. While there’s a lot of merit to just putting pen to paper, writing is a skill like any other and you need a solid knowledge base upon which to build before you start otherwise you’ll simply trip over your own shortcomings and stop before you’ve really started. A book which really helped me out when I was in a rut (and is super easy to read) was Nobody wants to read your shit by Steven Pressfield. It’s not some kind of holy grail of writing, but it’s a fantastic jumping off point, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s considering or in the middle of a writing career.
On Writing -Stephen King
Still Writing -Dani Shapiro
On Moral Fiction -John Gardner
First You Write -Joni Rodgers
The Forest For The Trees -Betsy Lerner
The Writing Life -Annie Dillard
Writing Past Dark -Bonnie Friedman
The Elements of Style -William Strunk & E.B. White
Story, Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting -Robert Mckee
Making Shapely Fiction -Jerome Stern
Steering the Craft
The Language of the Night -Ursula K Le Guin
Stephen King wrote about this in "On Writing." I can't remember all of it exactly, but it goes something like this.
If you tell people to draw a picture of a bird in a birdcage on a table in a large room, you'll get a different picture from every person. Now, you can limit that diversity by saying the bird is a large robin, and the table has a red tablecloth and the room has a window, etc.
But you will never get the same exact picture from any two people.
Why? Because our mind's eye will always see things differently from other people.
As a writer, you can be very descriptive: a large red robin is in a metal cage on a round table covered by a red tablecloth in a rectangular room with two windows ....
No matter how much detail you, the writer, give the reader, the reader will still have a slightly different picture than what you saw.
The magical thing about reading is that it does engage your brain. The reader gets to fill in the details. That's going to happen regardless of how perfect you get the scene. So, all that to say, don't worry about not getting your words to perfectly match up with what's in your mind's eye.
It all depends on context and the whims/process of the individual writer. I'm inclined to question anything given in absolutes, such as King's dismissal of outlining in the excellent On Writing, for instance.
I once had the "pleasure" of taking a CW workshop college class lead by a published literary author. Being a genre guy, the class quickly turned into a shitshow for me, this despite my total willingness to consider and process any input I was given. Some gems included:
I could go on. Long and short, the prof was - as much as I hate the word - a pretentious blowhard lording his handful of successful publications over a bunch of kids who looked up to him, and his grandstanding was a formative moment for my current seething hatred of workshop environments. Advice is good. Binary, yes-or-no, good-or-bad black-and-white advice almost never is.
In all seriousness, SK recommends this in On Writing. When you read bad writing, it becomes easier to identify it in your own work. So go pick up some Pulp and absorb the cliches, learn to predict where mediocre stories go so you recognize them before you include them in your own writing.
He also said there, "An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."
Articles like this are okay, but they seem themselves to be a form of procrastination to me. It can at times be helpful to learn techniques from the greats, but also detrimental.
I recommend to anyone trying to compose anything small or large to read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Six weeks is a good amount according to Stephen King in this passage from On Writing
> If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own.
It's not listed in the article, but in his book, On Writing, King tries to make a case against planning stories out rather than making them up as one goes along.
I think he comes off a little too strongly against it. I think the only difference between a planner and a pantser is the idea "I'll try to figure it out now," versus "I'll figure it out later." The planner has just as much freedom to deviate from the path he imagined if the writing seems to demand it.
LibreOffice - www.libreoffice.org
Free, fully featured, not trapped in a browser, not beholden to network latency, and not locking you into a company's data trap.
Once you start using LibreOffice then you'll wonder why anybody still pays for Office software.
I don't like Stephen King's books at all. They feel a bit lifeless to me.
On the other hand, I'm deeply awed by his work ethic and his prodigious output. No matter what you think of his works or his style, the man is a damned champion when it comes to being a professional and getting shit done. His book, "On Writing" is deeply inspiring.
On Writing is such a great book. When I read it, I would read another fiction book at the same time, and I'd go through the fiction book and try to find examples of the things that King was mentioning. For example, I remember thinking "What do you mean I have to use "said" all the time instead of all the other fun ways to show someone is talking?" I didn't believe him. But then I'd go look at my other book and realize "Ok, they really do just use said and it really does help it flow." I was really young when I read that book, and because I hadn't read much Stephen King, I didn't really trust him. Seeing his suggestions being used in published works really helped me to trust him and to remember some of the things he said.
The fact is that most people, even published writers who author books like 'The Elements of Style' don't even understand what passive voice is and sling the term around in all sorts of erroneous ways. This article really opened my eyes about it and I would recommend everyone who sees this comment goes off and spends a quiet half-hour or so reading through it.
'Passive' does not mean "contains an auxilliary word", such as in examples like "We have decided" or "We will be implementing".
"The butler was murdered"
"The president's authority has been much diminished"
"Not much is known by biologists about the coelocanth"
"There was a ceasefire"
"A struggle ensued"
"The butler was dead"
And in many instances there's absolutely nothing wrong with using passive clauses. It's just people are calling other things that sound wrong 'passive' so everyone perpetuates the myth that passive = bad.
Not to bash Stephen King, but in his book "On Writing" he shares that people can't get better at writing and that it's innate.
Looking at my first work vs. now, I'll have to call his bluff. People don't pop out of the womb making Shakespearean Sonnets - no matter how genetically inclined to do so.
Amazon Description: In 1597, fourteen years before the publication of the 'King James Bible,' King James wrote and published 'Daemonologie,' a philosophical monograph on the supernatural entities believed by King James to wander the Earth. Taking the form of a dialogue, this book covers everything from demons to witchcraft, detailing the specifics within an easy to digest format. Originally written in Early Modern English, this version has been transliterated for the comfort of modern readers, providing you with the authentic 'Daemonologie' experience.
I warn you though, you aren't going to find any explanations or annotations here. All I've done is update the syntax, language, and formatting so that its a bit easier to grasp the message, you still have to work for it. I am working on a more palatable version right now however.
Online resources are limited. Here's some more useful advice that has helped me:
Writing is reading. Reading is writing. Read in an engaged, purposeful manner. Read widely. Read what you want to write. Read what you hate. Read what you had never heard of till now. Read, read, read.
Study proper grammar, punctuation, and—if necessary—spelling. Try a style guide. Either Fowler's or Strunk & White's will do.
Be inspired by the advice of a predecessor. King's On Writing and Gardner's The Art of Fiction are the most direct and functional of those on offer, but Bird By Bird is often seen as useful as well for its inspirational prose.
Writing exercises and group workshops. Writing, editing, and critiquing short passages, including the work of others, allows for an accelerated rate of learning. If you focus on short stories, for instance, you can learn how to create different characters, tight plots, engaging worlds, etc, in 7500 words or less. This is the act of learning to lay a single brick with flawless and effortless perfection. When you have mastered bricklaying you can branch out into the construction of walls or of other, more inventive structures, like novels. If you really want to push the limits of your ability (and therefore push yourself to even greater heights of skill), master poetry, which is the ultimate literary distillation of human experience.
There are many good, online resources, but none of them can compete with long hours of reading and study. Taking shortcuts in writing is like taking shortcuts in your diet or in the workplace: it works, but your work won't compare with that of a more dedicated person.
Make games using Twine. http://twinery.org/ Make visual novels using ren'py. http://www.renpy.org/ Mod other games. Get into interactive fiction. This will help you get the hang of the general flow of how writing for video games will feel like. I myself am working on a Twine game (I love videogames!) as well as my regular novel and writing the two take very different thought processes at times. Look at narrative in your favorite games and really analyze how they do it.
Making games is a discipline. Really take it seriously and seek out articles on sites like Gamasutra as well as ASK QUESTIONS and speak to people with experience. When I say "discipline", it's like, I'm pretty sure being a baker doesn't entail sitting around eating cupcakes all day.
Above all, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and just go for it. Code it all up and play through it to see what works, and ask others to play the game as well and give their feedback on the writing. (you can PM me!)
You have to remember, there's no magic formula for good writing. Stephen King's On Writing laid down some stiff rules for aspiring authors, but the process is different for everyone.
King reads 100 books a year (two per week), and writes 2,000 words a day. Piers Anthony reads 10 or 12 books per year, and writes 1,000 words a day. Chuck Palahniuk reads when he feels like it, and doesn't write unless he has something to say.
As long as you're writing something, and as long as you're putting good words down on paper, everything else is extraneous and part of a personal process.
Stephen King, in On Writing, (in one of the many things I agree with) said that you should only bother with the theme after you've written the first draft, looked at it, and asked yourself: "What is this about?" I'd go further and say if you know for certain what the theme is before you start writing, you risk pretentiousness. Don't worry about it. Look at it once it's done.
The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner
What It Is, Lynda Barry
How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, Stanley Fish
On Writing, Stephen King
The Writer’s Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House
The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, Mary Norris
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
PLOTTO, William Wallace Cook
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
Ron Carlson Writers a Story, Ron Carlson
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremy Zerfoss
Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews, Samuel Delany
Good Prose, Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd
Naming the World, Bret Anthony Johnston
The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction, Brian Kiteley
Steering the Craft, Ursula K. LeGuin
A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver
On Writing Well, William Zinsser
The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White
Stephen King also said this in On Writing: “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach you than the good ones.”
I think it's just as important to know what makes bad books bad as it is to know what makes good books good.
For those who arent aware, this advice appears (at times almost word-for-word) in King's On Writing.
I quite like On Writing, it's a bit thin on practical advice (it's there, just not a ton of it), but I find it quite motivational, and the autobiographic parts are quite entertaining.
I like Stephen King's bit in "On Writing" about Said. His view is that if you're describing your characters, their actions and what's happening properly, using something other than "said" is redundant.
I use DokuWiki. It's free, open source, has tons of free addons and runs on a portable server (it comes with one) so you can literally run your wiki offline and even store the whole thing on a USB if you want. That's what I do. It's so handy.
Here are some suggestions:
Leave it alone for a while in order to help you see it with fresh eyes.
Read it out loud so that you have a better sense of how the sentences flow. Certainly edit anything that makes you stumble as you read it aloud. This should also help you hear the rhythm of your work: watch out for all your sentences being of similar length, for example.
Catch typos, doubled-up words, etc., by reading each line backwards.
Use software or online tools like this one to highlight excessive use of adverbs, convoluted sentences, passive voice, etc. Obviously don't change anything blindly just because some software told you to, but it can be a useful way to get a different perspective on your text.
Get feedback on it from trusted readers. Ask them to highlight any sections where the meaning was unclear or the sentences didn't flow well.
Expect the length to shrink, on average, as you successively omit needless words.
In On Writing Stephen King said to use said or nothing.
I'm not saying that everyone has to write like they're in the King's house, but I think his bibliography gives his opinion more weight than most.
On the other hand, he did say (vehemently) to avoid the use of adverbs.
I did end up self-publishing this one, which was something I thought I wanted to avoid in all honesty (because it's harder to do, not because I look down on it). But I found out that writing dystopian is kind of niche now, and no one wanted to represent it. A major literary agent told me it was written really well, and was one of five manuscripts (out of 50+) that she read to the end, but it wasn't really her genre so she passed. That kind of pushed me into the self-publish route since I kept getting a lot of the same feedback.
You can find it on Amazon here.
> The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.
ha, I have a bit of a cruel solution that will FORCE you to "just write". Behold, The Most Dangerous Writing App. You need to keep timing for a set amount of time (you can choose how long you wanna write). If you stop writing, then your progress diasppears. You're forced to "just write" and not go back to correct anything.
At the end of the time, it'll let you copy paste your text to another area, like google docs so you can yk keep it and edit it later.
Edit: If you do this, do like small 3 min or 5 min chunks, bc losing everything SUCKSSS
On Writing by Stephen King is easily the best book ever written. He doesn't tell you how to plot, or why a character should do so-and-so. He shows you why to keep writing and the patterns in legendary authors. It's a must-read. It's not a 'How-To,' it's a 'Why-To,' and it's bloody glorious.
Please do try literary fiction if it interests you, but if you like writing fantasy, why not keep writing it?
> You know, a novel about love or loss or growing up or something. Something that doesn't involve swords, treasures or magic.
To me, that's not what good fantasy is about. I finished off a steampunk fantasy novel and it's mostly about love, loss, and growing up-- and other human themes like morality, friendship, race, gender and religion. (It's a 21-year-old female mage's coming-of-age story.) Yes, there are swords (and guns, natch) and orcs, but those are largely setting details. In fact, the amount of world-building I was able to do in 124k is less than is typical for a fantasy novel, but I'm OK with that. I created a character (or few) and core idea that readers (I hope) will fall in love with, and I can do more world building in Books 2-N.
The idea that fiction has to be set in the real world to have literary merit is bullshit. If you want to write neorealism ("literary fiction") then knock yourself out. Some of it's excellent. If you want to write in a genre, write in that genre. Don't let a bunch of Manhattan assholes (who won't matter until you break out) tell you that you're wasting your talent because you're not writing the genre that they care about. Write for the genre that you care about, and you'll do your best work.
Stephen King talks about this in On Writing, which you should absolutely read even if you don't give a damn about horror.
On Writing is fantastic. Seems to have inspired you! I think King's advice is still sound, even these 16 years after it was published. The market has drastically changed since then, in that it's a lot harder to break into the biz, but if anything this only makes King's advice more relevant.
What will set your query apart from the hundreds of others in that agents inbox? A great premise and a perfect query letter, sure, but what about the dozens of query letters that also have that?
Have writing credits. It's basically a coded-paragraph in your query letter that, in text, reads your magazine and anthology credits. But the *sub*text of that paragraph is "My work is worthy to make it to print, because these other editors saw fit to print it."
So yes, I would say King's advice is extremely relevant. Go for it. Get half a dozen credits, and your query will stand out.
God have mercy on the poor saps who come after us, who, in an even tighter market, will have to have even more on their CV. ._.
If you're writing full-time, you can definitely do that. But by the time King wrote "On Writing" writing was his day job.
For the rest of us, we have to fit in writing around the job that pays the bills. That's 8 hours (at least), not to mention the commute, chores, cooking, etc.
Some of King's advice is great, others is not realistic. King is a very successful author, but he's not the ONLY author.
That's possibly because Steve himself was often on three-day coke binges. In On Writing he's pretty honest about the fact that he can't even remember writing Cujo and has only foggy recollections of several other novels from the same time period.
I got stuck in a phase for a long time where I read books on how to write more than I actually wrote. I think overall, it was a phase that did more harm than good. What actually knocked me out of it was this book - it's one of the best I've ever read. Not just because of what he says about the craft, but also the inspirational material, which I found almost necessary to push me over the edge - from thinking about writing to actually writing.
For anyone who is struggling and trying to write at the same time, and especially if you're being told by others that you're wasting your time or that you need to be focusing on other things - you have to read the first half of On Writing. It will help. Trust me.
Please folks. Read 'On Writing'. It's so much deeper than this surface skim. Unless you understand the whole package, you won't maximise your writing productivity.
I use Google Docs a lot. I'd say for 90% of my design, outline, timeline, and planning work.
One thing that Google Docs doesn't do, or something it might do that I haven't found, is create hyperlinks between documents. Kind of like a Wikipedia for your story. I love wiki's because you can just click on the hyperlink words in case you forgot what that term was. It's great for my needs.
Linked Notes is a good, easy to use, local hosted freeware wiki software. Careful, it's .NET framework based meaning it will only work on Windows machines.
I'm sure there are other alternatives for Mac OS or Linux, if anyone is interested enough to look into wiki's.
Link here. I'm not calling it out or anything cause it is a really cool idea that I really really want to work, but holy god, there is no plot. I mean, a few things are happening but they're not well plotted in that there's no clear chain of cause and effect from scene to scene. I am now roughly 2/3rds through the book and there's kinda an army marching for reasons that aren't really clear besides Generic Fantasy Feudal Bullshit and kinda a resistance that I don't think is actually being organized against said army. If not its a stupid waste of an opportunity for tension buildup.
It's the sort of thing I wouldn't have noticed when I was younger but now that I'm older and a writer myself I am struggling to unsee it.
Edit: I actually read some of the reviews on the Amazon link there and it seems I am not the only one to pick up on these exact issues. >.<
This is incredible. I've offered this before and will again. I have a number of copies of On Writing, free to a good home. If interested, PM me.
Edit: I'm out folks! To those who missed the opportunity, so sorry. If I happen across another mother lode, I'll be sure to let you know.
I just recently read Stephen King's On Writing, and although I'm paraphrasing he basically said writing is like uncovering a fossil, always tell the truth of the story and just allow it to form on its own.
The first draft is like the initial discovery then from there, you bring your fine brushes and discover what that fossil is just as it is.
I use FocusWriter, I believe it's exactly what you're describing. Its primary purpose is to provide a distraction-free writing environment (which I need--ADD makes it nearly impossible to get words down most times) but it also keeps track of your daily counts, your writing streaks, best days, etc.
Pretty much the only time I get ideas. Yesterday I came up with one right before a power outage. We had no lamps, flashlights, and the sun was down so I couldn't even write by hand.
In general though, the best advice I can give is to keep a notebook and pen in your pocket or bag, and leave one by you bed on a nightstand or something. If an idea comes to you just start jotting stuff down that will jog your memory and help shape it up - you don't need to write a whole draft.
Ray Bradbury has some excellent notes on word association and collecting your ideas in his book Zen in the Art of Writing.
Some advice that might help:
One thing to try is typing/writing out the work of your favorite authors and books. Passages that you think as especially beautiful, striking, or well-done. Tracing the sentences, understanding the rhythms, and following over the lead of writers you admire will help you improve your own craft and voice. It might be apocryphal but Hunter S. Thompson supposedly re-typed out the entire Great Gatsby so he would know what it felt like to 'write' that book.
As far as vocabulary goes, I agree that reading is the best thing to improve it. And when you come across a word you don't understand, note it and go back later and look it up.
Vocabulary isn't everything, however. Clear writing is clear thinking. Precision. Point of view. Story. Characters. Telling details. I'd argue all of these are more important than an expansive vocabulary. Orwell famously said, "Never use a long word when a short one will do."
I used to get this a lot.
Write. Just keep writing. Don't stop. Set yourself a time limit if you have to (Write or Die is great for that). Keep writing without giving your 'self-editing' thoughts time to intervene.
Reread it a week later and make changes based on how naturally the sentence flows.
There are an infinite number of ways to phrase a single action. You will get lose in infinity.
King's autobiography and writing guide, 'On Writing', has a lot of information about what forged him into one of the most prolific authors of the modern era.
I believe it is from Steven Pinker's "The Sense of Style". I came across this image as-is on Twitter.
I laughed long and loud at this, so I figured you guys would enjoy it, too!
*Edit: This is the actual tweet: https://twitter.com/alex_macdonald/status/593581559325839360
The real issue with On Writing (which I quite enjoyed) is that it reflects an era of publishing that only exists these days in rare areas.
Regarding the craft of writing, he offers some decent advice for beginners in about twenty pages where other "experts" needed whole books to convey.
I would recommend getting a copy of The Elements of Style if you can.
Here is a pdf. If you ctrl-f 'comma' and read the rules it should clear some things up for you in a very quick straightforward manner.
Personally a fan of Stephen King's "On Writing". I tend not to read many of those books, though, because there's so much out there that is useless or that repeats what the other useless books say.
It depends what you're looking for, though, I think. Do you want books about style, elements of writing, inspiration, editing and revision, the writing process...? There's so much out there.
Just invest in the purchase of a VPN if you're worried. PIA is fantastic (Private Internet Access). It masks your actual IP address, by redirecting you through a server in another country, so there isn't as much need to worry (well, there isn't a need at all to worry, but sure, get a VPN—it helps to make you not worry). Granted, your internet speed will decrease while using it, but depending on which server you connect with, and which VPN company you go with, it won't be too much of a drop.
It wasn't 30 days but 3 months, and when reading his book I don't recall him saying no excuses. Quote from the original article regarding his book: "King likes to write 10 pages a day. Over a three-month span, that amounts to around 180,000 words. 'The first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months, the length of a season,' he says. If you spend too long on your piece, King believes the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel."
As for myself, writing isn't my full time so 4-6 months depending on life. (edited for spelling)
The download data only listed the author's birth and death, not publication date. Gutenberg doesn't seem to have publication date for all eg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/17221
However yes, going from date of death of authors I'd say most are from 19th to early 20th century. The oldest was Dante, newest Samuel Vaknin, born in 1961.
Yes and no. There will be some people who turn away just because it is Fan Fiction. But keep in mind that people do read fanfiction, and there is quite a bit of good stuff out there.
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/1/Harry_Potter_and_the_bMethods_b_of_bRationality_b is an example of an amazing fanfic, lots of time and lots of effort have been put into it, genuinely good writing, quite possibly could be considered better than the original.
Will it ever do anything more than sit on the internet? Probably not.
Did I have fun reading it? Did it bring hours of entertainment to thousands? Did it teach me something important about the world and the way I think? Did it introduce me to a unique perspective about life? Did the author have a good time writing it? Hells yes. Was the effort wasted? I would go with a no.
It's up to you to decide. Yes, some people will run away because of the bad name that Fanfiction has, but, some people won't :)
Simple answer: no you don't need to worry.
This is an important reason to think about switching to LibreOffice. It's not just a better choice because it's free. The software freedom philosophy that underpins it is the most important thing- because writing is a human right, and no company should be allowed to be a middle-man to this process.
There are essentially two possible sources for this.
1.) Your imagination. Real people think up ways to kill each other all the time.
2.) True crime stories and related documentation. Looking at how OTHER people have done it can go a long way. When Thomas Harris was researching for his books, he did a TON of research into serial killers, and a lot of the info that he learned got mixed and combined to make his villains.
The lead investigator in Silence of the Lambs was based on a guy named John Douglas at the FBI. He wrote a series of books about his time there and the cases he worked. That might be a decent place to start.
I wrote one story of an anthology, as JD Alvey. The story that ended up in the book was a little less goofy and little more sexy. I don't know if I still have a pre-edit copy, but that was a literal first draft.
I don't have any specific quotes or advice for you, however I recently read Stephen King's On Writing and enjoyed it immensely, both for its practical advice to aspiring writers and its insight into Stephen King's own development as a writer.
I love your birthday gift idea, by the way. Your friend is going to be thrilled to receive something so thoughtful and personal.
In On Writing, King states that he writes 2,000 words a day, every day.
This amounts to 730,000 words a year.
I generally only see one or two books from King per year. If we say two books of equal size (365,000 words), and say roughly 300 words/page, that would be two 1,200 page books (which, I think, is longer than most of what King puts out, aside from monsters like The Stand and It).*
Apply this to Danielle Steel - a rough lookthrough of her most recent books yields a (generous) average page count of 380. Again, at 300 words/page, that's 114,000 words/book. If you're writing 2,000 words/day, every, day, for a total of 730,000 words a year, and allocating about 114,000 words/book, that's between six and seven books written per year.
If you hand off most of your editing to your publisher, or even have their assistance with ghostwriters, it's very doable. I remember doing similar math for R.L. Stine - you can easily write and edit a Goosebumps-length book in a single month if you stick to just 1,000 words/day during the writing portion.
So yeah. A little bit every day makes a big difference.
*Of course, this is assuming he only puts words towards novels - which he doesn't.
I agree that every writer should read On Writing by King. As a bonus it includes a huge list of books to read afterwards. Other than that...
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Though, really, On Writing is the only one on the list I'd say every writer should read. The rest are just damn good books.
So I highly recomend you read 'On Writing' by Stephen King. Or at least the pages around the 150 mark... I scanned through it just now, to try and find a nice bite sized quote for you but really one or two sentences cant do it justice.
He outlines rather well his own process of writing which personally I found very helpful. Of course everyone writes differently but I also had the same problem as you and reading this book fixed ot for me.
Essentially he tells you to just write as quick as you can, just get the whole thing down over a few months, as little as 2000 words a day. Dont look back, outrun any doubs you may have. Just
write it all. Then in your second draft turn what you have into the story that you want.
King may not be your favorite writer i know many people feel hes a poor writer and a little over hyped (the heathens) but you cant deny his success so I feel his oppinions are worth any writers time.
On second thought, just read the whole book. Its a really good read.
I loved that book!
I can also heartily recommend Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer.
I'm not a habitual writer myself, but found both of those books inspiring and full of interesting insights into how to practice the craft.
The way Oyinkan Braithwaite does this in My Sister, the Serial Killer, is one possibility :) The villain here has a close relationship with the novel's protagonist, and this has to do with their backstory. Using backstory to build loyalties between villains and their allies can help humanize them, and show why it is that the allies are now colluding with the villains.
Reading books before setting out to write is a form of procrastination. Given that, books can help, but they're not really much help unless you've been writing for a while, 3 to 12 months, so you can put the advice into perspective.
Lawrence Block collected four volumes of the columns he wrote for Writer's Digest while he was a contributing editor there. They have titles like "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit". For someone getting started or trying to improve, they're a gold mine of practical advice.
King's 'On Writing' and Browne and King's 'Self-Editing for Fiction Writers' are the other books I'd consider indispensable.
The entire list seems composed of the most worn platitudes that could possibly be extracted from On Writing.
Its like reading a book on racing written by a famous driver, and writing a blog about how it taught you to "go fast" and "don't crash."
There isn't anything here.
Stephen King's On Writing would seem to be the seminal work in the field, judging by what I've seen an awful lot of professional writers say. The book is in three pieces. The first piece is largely autobiographical and fairly missable. The meat of the book is in the second piece, which gives clear, easy-to-follow direction on how to craft stories.
When I was working on my book, I saw this (probably posted on Reddit):
JK Rowling made a chart of every chapter in every Harry Potter book, that listed where every character was and what they were doing. So for continuity's sake, she knew that even if Dumbledore wasn't in a scene, he was at Hogwarts or he was away somewhere, or he was having a conversation with Snape that would come into play later.
I liked the idea enough that I immediately set up a Google spreadsheet for my own story, and it helped immensely. My chapters alternated between two POV narrators, and it was so much easier to plan out the story while balancing those chapters out. Now I'm working on my second and third novels (I had two ideas while writing the first, and if I get stuck on one, I'll spend some time with the other), and I started both of them with a spreadsheet.
There's a Great Course on Building Sentences and I found it absolutely vital to tightening and working on my prose: https://www.audible.com/pd/Building-Great-Sentences-Exploring-the-Writers-Craft-Audiobook/B00DB6PQWW
I've self published my first book on Amazon! It's called The Greatest Story Ever Told and it's an absurd historical comedy about a mediocre novel which takes the world by storm. My primary comedic inspirations are Douglas Adams and Monty Python, so if you like those things, you might like it!
Also, my fantasy/comedy episodic web fiction series, Odd & Ends continues ever onward.
I'm not a huge Stephen King fan but I loved his book 'On Writing;' the first half of the book is autobiographical and the second half is instructional with his thoughts on what makes good effective writing. It may not be as comprehensive as other books dedicated solely to writing but it's such an entertaining read, I almost burned through it in a single sitting (but I wrapped it up by the end of the second day). I highly recommend it for anyone starting out.
I am never without my copy of "Zen in the Art of Writing" by Ray Bradbury. It's the closest thing I have to a bible. I have read it cover-to-cover three or four times, but I find myself going back to small passages or single essays (there are eleven essays in the book) over and over when I am feeling uninspired or doubting myself. Miss ya, Ray.
Personally, as a writer, I try to absorb as much art as a storytelling form I can! I try to watch lots of acclaimed movies, as much television I can (but not the reality TV garbage, more drama and story oriented like Breaking Bad), and I find myself even listening to songs and music that tell stories. I think the more great art you absorb, it will show in your writing.
Admittedly, On Writing is a pretty old book and times have changed since its writing, so maybe Stephen King would think differently now (I don't keep up with his interviews and stuff). Maybe not! I just know I love to watch movies and television that tell great stories.
I have yet to read his book, but recently finished a similar book: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Some good advice, like put an empty 1" picture frame on your desk. When you get stuck, just remember that today you only need to write what you can 'see' of your story in that 1" picture frame. However, I did not find the book inspiring. Apparently, to be a writer your have to be neurotic, self-loathing, suffer from anxiety and depression, and extremely jealous and petty about other writers' success (and she wrote this book at 60 years of age not 16)
>If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
>- Steven Pressfield. The War of Art.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Stephen King reviewed his editing process in a chapter of On Writing. He recreated some short sections of a short story and a new article, and then demonstrated what he cut out.
Other than that, I can't think of many other examples.
Posting a first draft could run into legal or publishing problems, much like posting fiction online and then trying to sell it sometimes does.
You're just not going to find someone's first draft until long after the book has been published, if at all.
Actually Rowling wrote for her kids.
If you read Stephen King's On Writing you'll see that he recommends writing for a specific reader. His reader was his wife. Stephen King doesn't write for large audiences (despite his books selling quite well). He writes for one person in the same way that Rowling wrote for her kids.
When you try to write for a large audience you end up missing the mark.
I've been using Scrivener for Windows (Beta) lately, along with the Mac version with Dropbox sharing when I feel the need to write on my Macbook instead of my PC.
Prior to that I was organising everything in .txt files and Q10, a full-screen 'distraction free' word processor. I prefer Scrivener because it offers me more organisational functionality though, and I've made quite a bit of use so far.
Our brains love problem solving, so immediately give your readers' minds something to chew on, some mystery that they can immediately begin trying to figure out. Your protagonist has to want something from the very beginning, and there needs to be a barrier to them getting that thing they want, be it physical or intellectual.
Even a problem as banal as a character being thirsty and looking around for a clean cup from which to drink from can drive people to turn the page because we all want to participate in solving the problem at hand as we read.
Think of problems as strings you attach to your reader, pulling them along to the next page. You always need to have at least one pulling at all times to ensure tension, even from page one.
Lisa Chron's Wired for Story covers all this in much more detail. I highly recommend it.
this is kind of cringe worthy to be honest, for a variety of reasons:
1) Take a look at the book on amazon. 39% of readers gave it 1 or 2 stars. I mean, that's a LOT of negative reviews for a book.
2) on goodreads 57% of reviews were 3 stars or lower.
3) she went through a publisher; which ain't going to make you money unless you sell a LOT of books. She says she sold 12,000 books... if she had achieved that self publishing at say $5 sell price, she would have made over $50k
4) The book currently sells for $11.48. I mean, wayward pines is selling for under $2 and was a best seller. (although I think its on sale and is regularly $4.99).. and crouch's newer stuff is $12'ish.
So what you've got here is an author who took no ownership of understand the world of writing. They just handed their book over to their publisher and thought after some critical acclaim they were set.
What the NYT thinks of your book really doesn't matter. It might generate some buys... but if actual readers don't like it, that's what matters.
And to top all this off... it's over a year later and she hasn't produced any more books.
If anything, this article is an example of someone who didn't understand the publishing industry.
The only thing I'm shocked by is that her agent / publisher didn't tell her that she had to keep writing.
I wrote a book and self-published it on amazon two weeks ago. I started writing it January of 2016 as a serial on a fiction hosting website and I only finished editing and polishing it now. I go by the pen name Virlyce. My book is called The Blue Mage Raised by Dragons and it has been successful way beyond my expectations (I expected to sell around 20 copies honestly). I've hit amazon's best seller rank of 400 in the paid kindle store and it's not even offered for KU. I've reached top ten for fantasy>humorous, fantasy>sword&sorcery and it feels amazing.
Right now, I'm proofreading it by having someone read it out loud to me, so I can confidently request paperbacks and audiobooks for my novel. Writing feels great.
I'll piggyback on this excellent reply by saying that I had a problem for years when I would buy a nice notebook and then never write in it because I didn't want to mess it up. I knew it was a dumb belief, but I held onto it anyway for too many years. I fixed it finally by buying a knockoff of a Midori Traveler's notebook - it's a nice leather cover that can hold multiple thin notebooks that I can buy 3 for $10. The notebook cover is pretty awesome, but if I royally screw up an insert, I can always toss it out and add another. That one little tweak completely changed my relationship with notebooks.
It's not a book about the craft of writing per se, but Stephen King's Danse Macabre is his treatise on horror as a genre in literature and cinema and it has some very interesting concepts to consider and possibly utilize. Couple it with his book On Writing, which actually does have quite a lot to say about the craft of writing, and it might be an effective pairing.
>It was leading me to use adverbs and other dialogue tags than "said."
My goodness. This in itself is not a bad thing. This sub's adverb/dialogue tag/minimalist writing constraints are really getting tired.
It's a stylistic choice, but some people take it too far and make it a hard rule. I'm pretty sure this stems from Hemmingway-adoration and following Stephen King (he actually uses plenty of adverbs in his early work, but his book On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft highly discourages it). But this sub takes it too far in general.
Let your story and style dictate what you use. J.K Rowling uses plenty of adverbs, and she was writing for middle-school/YA audience, so it worked for her. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors and he used adverbs liberally.
Its one of those things that amateurs hear pros say "oh avoid adverbs" and then take that and run with it. When in reality, they just mean be aware of the words you use. Write with intention.
There is nothing wrong with adverbs or dialogue tags. They're a tool. Don't avoid them because you think they're intrinsically bad. And don't assume that your writing is good because you're avoiding them.
I love Stephen King's stuff, and you'll understand his method a lot more if you ever read his book: On Writing. He describes plot as not the enemy, but as a bit of a contradiction, which I agree with, that if you let the plot overtake the story it becomes boring. Instead letting the situations drive it, and slowly add a bit to the plot as things go. I liked how The Shining ended, It, Doctor Sleep, The Drawing of the Three, the Bill Hodges's Trilogy, and if I thought about it I could come up with more. A lot of writing is all about plot, but I've never read for the plot, I like the characters and the emotions you can draw out in a proper story. Like T.S. Eliot's the Wasteland, it's nonsensical but it building an image in your mind that's dark and disturbing with the irrelevant humor adding to that sense of dread. That's something I love, especially one of his most famous quotes: I will show you fear in a handful of dust, gives me chills. That sentence manages to be so multilayered in its meaning and uses the simplest words. No real imagery, or an attempt to paint a picture just straight forward and effective.
As for the destination, again, I want the characters and to see what they do along the path to their goals or overall destination. When I pickup a book it's fine to have plot, but as they say enjoy the journey not the destination.
This is the perfect balance right here. It's not discouraging, but it's honest. The core concepts (characters/plot) are still complimented. The mechanics matter less to the writer (for the most part) than the actual story.
I'd encourage her to branch out with her reading, to absorb the work of others to better sharpen her mechanics.
"On Writing" by Stephen King and "Story" by Robert McKee would make great gifts, btw.
No "I just wrote 5,000 words/finished a story, congratulate me' posts.
They're completely useless and one big congratulatory circle jerk.
I think a lot of the really interesting articles get downvoted or ignored because new writers don't understand them. It would be nice if there was a group of people committed to giving them a kick up.
I would ban the words 'On Writing' and 'the man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.'
I would have the important rules posted above the text box, forcing users to read something like 'don't post your goddamn story in the main forum' before submitting. A good example would be /r/books, which has a giant stop sign.
I would tell people not to downvote something just because they disagree, but that's impossible.
I would be more active about banning spammers.
Honestly, I think he just speaks his mind. Many authors are hesitatingly critical of other writers. You can tell they want to say "This is crap," but they also feel they have to offer something positive and/or constructive to balance the negative opinion, even if they struggled to find something positive to say. If King only has negative things to say, then he just says it. Similarly if he loved something he has no qualms about heaping praise on it. The best example I can think of is, obviously, his statement that he had seen the face of horror in Clive Barker.
I tend to trust King's recommendations, because he doesn't jump on bandwagons and he's established that he always gives an honest opinion of the things he has read. He is also well aware that his writing can be "on the pulpy side", and is equally critical of his own work. He quite bluntly states in On Writing that he has " a tin ear for language".
Only advice I'd give is use occasionally, such as every 3rd chapter. I got bogged down in my first draft trying to cut all the repetitive phrases as I went along.
But a great program no less. Words, phrases, cliches, redundancy, grammar, pronoun overuse... Loads.
Edit: And don't let it dictate either. It's an editor not the author.
> (2) the cover features pictures of actual people
Would you mind checking out these two covers and letting me know if they trigger you?
Not OP but I like both of those covers and they don't trigger my distaste for covers featuring a person.
For me, it's book covers like this one.
I found that even when I didn't include my characters' background stories, I still used them. They inform the characters' emotional lives, even if the reader isn't privy to the details. One of my supporting characters works in a hospital, and doesn't allow herself to have a life outside of her work, because she always feels guilt that she could be saving lives. I wrote a whole backstory for her about how her parents were criminals, she turned them in to get out of that family situation, and now she's consumed by guilt both for what they did and what she did to them. The only part of that that makes it into the story is one line about her changing her name. But I had it in my head when I wrote her, so she's prickly and closed-off emotionally, and instead of just writing that type, I could envision why she is that way.
And while I'm here, may as well plug the book she's in.
Congrats! Although I was skeptical of the waiting period (and I think very highly of SK and On Writing.) I just did the wait on my first novel as well. I was surprised how well it works. Amazing what a fresh perspective can do!
There are two books that I think really help with the 1) process and 2) practical aspects of writing:
-Stephen King, On Writing
-Strunk & White, The Elements of Style
These two have been “trendy” picks on blogs and interviews, as of late. However, I think they are two wonderful resources for writers at any stage.
Also, the site Brain Pickings occasionally posts articles that focus on the writing process.
The Art of Fiction by John Gardener helped me immensely. I refer to it whenever I'm editing. I can't recommend it enough.
As a sidenote, I love Stephen King. He's one of my favourite authors. But, I feel like the book On Writing is great as a sort of general help book and somewhat King autobiography, but in terms of practical writing advice I didn't really find it that helpful. Maybe I need to go back and read it again but I just felt like the writing advice was mostly general advice and a lot of what makes King a great writer isn't really defined in the book.
I do the same thing, following King's advice from On Writing, and it works a treat. Putting it away for that amount of time (I do 6 weeks) makes you lose all familiarity with the piece, and makes it easier to reread/rewrite.
Stephen King is just trying to give struggling newbies who whine about it being too hard a kick in the ass to get going. You don't need to take his every word as gold, but On Writing has so much helpful stuff that anyone who can think for themselves will be able to tell where they should diverge from his advice to suit their particular style.
Also, it isn;t controversial to ditch the outline, even On Writing advocates to freestyle (people around here call it the 'pantser' style, but personally I loath the term)