Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 4

  Part 4 of four posts on backstory by the amazing Randy Ingermanson. Find out how to get his free newsletter full of great information like this at the bottom of the post.

 Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 4, by Randy Ingermanson
You have at least six good ways to give your reader backstory, when the time is ripe. Here they are:
* Interior monologue
* Dialogue
* Narrative summary
* Flashback
* A nonlinear timeline
* Research

A Nonlinear Timeline
Sometimes you simply tell the story out of order. This is different than a flashback, which always has an entry point and an exit point.

When you use a nonlinear timeline, you can insert a time-stamp to indicate the date. Audrey Niffenegger uses a nice twist on this technique in THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, where the dates aren't that important, but the characters' ages are.

You can also use a header that says something like, "Six weeks earlier." John Locke uses this technique in his novel SAVING RACHEL, at the point where he switches protagonists.

The first two-thirds of Locke's book features Sam Case, who is having a very bizarre day -- he's forced to choose whether his wife or his new mistress is going to die.

The final third of the book features a different protagonist, and begins with the words, "Two days earlier, 9:30 am..."

The book then replays things and fills in some essential backstory that Sam Case doesn't know.

In some cases, you can simply jump back a number of years without any warning at all. Mario Puzo does this in Part 3 of THE GODFATHER, which takes Don Corleone
back to the age of 12 and replays in fast-forward his life for several decades to show how he became the Godfather.

Modern readers are smart and don't mind this kind of leaping around through time, as long as they care about the story, and as long as they know where they are on the time-line.

In some stories, the plot revolves around figuring out what happened in the past. This is obviously true for mysteries, where the detective is looking for clues.

It's also true in some kinds of thrillers. An example is THE DAVINCI CODE, where the protagonist must learn the secrets of the holy grail in order to stay alive.

The key thing is to make the research essential to the frontstory. Then success means learning the backstory.

So what do you do if your story has too much backstory up front?

That's not so hard. Follow these steps:

* Make a fresh working copy of your manuscript (so you don't lose what you've got right now).

* Read through your manuscript and mark every piece of backstory. You can do this easily in Word by highlighting it and then inserting a comment that says, "Backstory."

* Now go through your story and interrogate every single piece of backstory to figure out if it's both necessary and minimal. If it isn't, snip it out and save it to a different file -- a "backstory file."

* Read through your story one more time looking for places that are confusing because of missing backstory. Clear up the confusion by inserting the minimal necessary backstory. You can either write it fresh or copy in a piece from your backstory file. You can use
any of the six techniques we discussed above. Choose the one that meets your strategic goals for the story best.

When you finish, you'll have a leaner, more robust story in which every single piece of backstory is just what your reader needs in order to enjoy the frontstory.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced FictionWriting E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Check out the other posts in the series here:
Part 1| Part 2| Part 3

Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 3

Part 3 of four posts on backstory by the amazing Randy Ingermanson. Find out how to get his free newsletter full of great information like this at the bottom of the post.

Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 3, by Randy Ingermanson
You have at least six good ways to give your reader backstory, when the time is ripe. Here they are:
* Interior monologue
* Dialogue
* Narrative summary
* Flashback
* A nonlinear timeline
* Research

Narrative summary
Sometimes the most efficient way to give the reader some backstory is just to tell her. Narrative summary is efficient.

It's also boring. If you're going to tell the backstory this way, keep it as short as possible and put some effort into making it as interesting as possible, because this is where you're most likely to lose your reader.

Tom Clancy is famous for giving the reader large doses of backstory early in his books. His novel THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER has 12 pages of solid backstory in narrative summary, beginning on page 30.

Did Tom make a mistake? His millions of fans will tell you he got it right. The backstory begins after a very strong start, in which a Soviet submarine commander kills his own political officer at the beginning of a cruise, and then announces a bold and daring mission to his crew. The commander is committing treason, and the reader needs a spectacularly good reason why. The backstory provides that reason. Now the reader is on
the commander's side.

If you're going to use narrative summary, do it after a strong action scene, when the reader needs a bit of a break anyway. Use it to explain some of the questions the reader might have.

Flashbacks are often vilified by writing teachers. I don't see any good reason to avoid flashbacks, so long as the reader feels the need for some backstory.

A flashback is, in fact, a great way to show the reader some backstory using all the techniques of frontstory.

My favorite example of flashback is the series of memories that Professor Snape gives Harry Potter in the 7th and final book of the Harry Potter series. Here at last, after thousands of pages, we learn the real secrets of Snape's past, why he hates Harry, and . . .
why he loves him.

A flashback has an entry point (where the viewpoint character flashes back to the past) and an exit point (where the character returns to the present).

Generally, these are tied together by some object that somehow triggers the memory of the past. In the case of the Potter flashbacks, the triggering object is the "Pensieve" which acts as a portal into other people's memories.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the AdvancedFictionWriting E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

  Check out the other posts in this series here:
Part 1| Part 2| Part 4  

Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 2

Part 2 of four posts on backstory by the amazing Randy Ingermanson. Find out how to get his free newsletter full of great information like this at the bottom of the post.

Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 2, by Randy Ingermanson
You have at least six good ways to give your reader backstory, when the time is ripe. Here they are:

* Interior monologue
* Dialogue
* Narrative summary
* Flashback
* A nonlinear timeline
* Research

Interior Monologue
Interior monologue is the sequence of thoughts that pass through a viewpoint character's mind. The reader can hear these, either as word-for-word thoughts or else as the gist of what the character is thinking.

Either way, this is a fine way to give your reader little snippets about your character's backstory.

The key thing here is to treat interior monologue backstory like salt. A little is good -- it makes you thirsty. A lot makes you gag.

If you're going to use interior monologue this way, make the backstory references necessary to the character's line of thinking, and keep them short.

Inexperienced writers often launch a long stretch of backstory in dialogue by having one character begin, "As you know..."

The problem is that nobody in real life ever tells somebody else what they both know. This kind of backstory stops your story cold. The reason is that there's no conflict. They both already know everything.

If you want to tell some of your backstory using dialogue, drive it with conflict. Maybe one of the characters knows and doesn't want to tell, whereas the other character doesn't know and desperately needs to. Or maybe one character is about to do something stupid,
and the other one can only prevent it by giving up some backstory.

There are plenty of ways to play out some backstory through dialogue so that you maintain a high level of conflict.

Remember: no conflict, no story. So your dialogue must have conflict. If you keep the conflict high, you can give your reader unlimited amounts of backstory in dialogue.

A cross-examination of a witness in a courtroom is a classic powerful way to use dialogue to reveal backstory. The dialogue itself is frontstory. The information revealed in the dialogue is mostly backstory. But naturally, it has a huge impact on the frontstory.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced FictionWriting E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Check out the other posts in this series here: Part 1| Part 3| Part 4  

Making Your Reader Love Backstory, Part 1 by Randy Ingermanson

Randy Ingermanson has written one of the best explanations on backstory I've ever read. He introduces his ideas here, and the six ways to use backstory will be spread over the next three days. If you've never signed up for his free newsletter, click the link at the bottom.

  Making Your Reader Love Backstory, by Randy Ingermanson
 If you want to kill your novel, the quickest, surest way to do it is to throw in a big lump of backstory on your first page. Or in your first chapter.

Yes, sure, I've seen published novelists start off with a boatload of backstory. I've seen jugglers juggling burning torches. I've seen an archer shoot an arrow through the balloon atop his wife's head. Blindfolded.

But all of these are risky behaviors. If you want to take risks, there needs to be a payoff somewhere. If you don't know the payoff, then you have no business taking risks.

Backstory, by the way is good. If you don't know your characters' backstory -- all the stuff that happened in their lives up till the time your story started, then odds are good that your story is going to be pretty shallow.

You want to know the backstory of your novel.

The trick here is to make your reader want to know that backstory too. The real trick is to make your reader beg for it.

You don't do that by piling it on in the first chapter, before your reader cares about your characters.

How do you make your reader beg? There are several ways, but they all come down to the same thing. You write a compelling story with strong characters and sharp plot twists.

A plot twist is an unexpected change in the story direction. Your reader thought she knew your character, thought she could predict what would happen next, and was delighted to learn she was wrong. That darned character zigged when he should have zagged. Why?

Most of the time, it's because of something in his past. There's a reason. And now your reader wants to know that reason. Now she's ready for backstory.

The rules for backstory are really pretty simple:
* Just in time.
* Just enough.

"Just in time" means only when the reader needs it and only when the reader wants it.
Randy Ingermanson has written one of the best examinations on backstory I've read.
"Just enough" means that the reader doesn't need to know everything you do. Leave the reader wanting more, not wanting less.

Remember that at least one major category of fiction is all about discovering the backstory -- the mystery. Once you've got a corpse in the picture, the whole story is about figuring out who did it, why he did it, and how he did it. That's backstory, pure and simple. But until you've got a corpse, none of that is of any interest.

You have at least six good ways to give your reader backstory, when the time is ripe. Here they are:
* Interior monologue 
* Dialogue
* Narrative summary
* Flashback
* A nonlinear timeline
* Research

Check out the rest of the series here:

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced FictionWriting E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Eyes Wide Open: Protecting yourself in the publishing world.

This morning I came upon troubling news. Someone is impersonating a well-known literary agent, and contacting writers regarding book deals (read more on the story at GalleyCat).

Writers looking for agents ought to be aware of a few important things. 

Be suspicious of an agent who charges a fee for reading. Agents get paid when they help you make money. Steer clear of agents who ask for an upfront fee.

Watch out for other fees. Some agents charge for postage and office supplies, but a legitimate agent will not charge 'submission fees' or fees for marketing.

Read your contract carefully. Know whether you're partnering with an agent for a particular book, or for subsequent books.

There are two main resources where writers can check potential agents against a list of agents on a watch list. These sites contain huge amounts of information on publishing in general. They're good to have bookmarked.

Any other ideas about protecting yourself?

Agent Friday: The Rejecter

Today's agent isn't really an agent, but an agent's assistant. And I don't know if the Rejecter is a man or woman, or their name. But this anonymous assistant is invaluable in helping navigate the do's and don'ts of querying, because it's a whole lot easier to be honest when no one knows who you are.

However, I can see from the posts that The Rejecter is a published fiction author. So, since I can't give you a bio and an agency website, we'll get straight to the posts that caught my eye.

The Rejecter answers questions like:

Book Review: How to Publish Your Novel: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes, by Ken Atchity

 It takes new writers years of trolling blogs and websites to feel they've begun to master a knowledge of the publishing industry.

After more than four decades in publishing, and years in the entertainment industry, Ken Atchity calls himself a 'story merchant'. With How to Publish Your Novel: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes, he gives new writers an easy way to get a grasp on how the publishing industry works.

In twelve chapters, he and fellow authors Andrea Mckeown, Julie Mooney, and Margaret O'Connor share the basics of publishing, how to get a novel published, and how to build a writing career.

Topics covered are:
*creating an effective submission package
*pinpointing the best publishers for your writing
*identifying your ideal agents
*avoiding new writer mistakes
*an eight-step system to get your novel published
*how to promote your novel

The book concludes with an extensive list of definitions for publishing industry terms, and a long resource list of books, websites and periodicals for writers.

Find out more about Ken Atchity at his website, and his writing coach site, The Story Merchant.

Where do you feel you fall on the spectrum? Just starting to learn, or a seasoned veteran? How long did it take, and what resources helped you acquire the knowledge you have?

Not One, But Two Free Online Writing Conferences

No matter where you live, or what your budget, or even your age will prevent you from attending a writing conference this summer.

WriteOnCon is a free online conference for writers of any age. While some of the focus is on writing for children, the main workshops and ideas apply to writers of any genre. The conference runs from Tuesday, August 16th to Thursday, August 18th, 2011, and will not cost you a penny. You can access the workshops and forums at any time, so it won't matter what time zone you're in.

NextGen Online Writing Conference is specifically for young writers, age 20 and under. It also takes place in August, on August 2nd and 3rd, 2011. Registration is already open. You'll find lots of great workshops taught by professionals who want to encourage young writers.

So, no excuses, right?

Free Course: Twenty Master Plot Exercises

Here's a great course to improve your plotting. Or maybe your story is stuck, and you'd like to take it in a new and fresh direction. I came across a resource that might give you the building blocks you need.

Writer Mike Barker, inspired by the book 20 Master Plots (and how to build them), has put together a course complete with exercises, that takes writer through the different types of plots. Reading through the course, you get the sense that you're sitting in a workshop with Barker, soaking in the information.

Here's the different components of his course:

Introduction: the eight common denominators of a good plot
Master Plot 1: The Quest
Master Plot 2: Adventure
Master Plot 7: The Riddle
Master Plot 10: Temptation
Master Plot 11: Metamorphosis
Master Plot 12: Transformation
Master Plot 13: Maturation
Master Plot 15: Forbidden Love
Master Plot 16: Sacrifice
Master Plot 17: Discovery
Master Plot 18: Wretched Excess
Master Plot 19 & 20: Ascension & Descension
Finishing Up: a final checklist for your plot
If that's not enough for you, Barker has a list of 281 writing exercises to try.               

What resources do you use to fine tune your plot? Or do you just wing it?

Till It Shines: Examining the Editing Process

I've been thinking about editing. Did you know that many publishers are spending less on editing manuscripts they publish? Even if you have the good fortune of being traditionally published, the economic realities mean your manuscript might not get the spit and polish you expect.

And in this new world inundated with ebooks, it's essential to stand out. Quality will do that, but you'll need to take a bigger part of the responsibility.

What's an author to do?

First, become an active part of a critique group (or two). There are different kinds out there. Some are 'fluffy', where no one will speak a critical word, and everyone's manuscript is 'so nice'. That's not what you need if publication is your goal. You're looking for a group that will toughen up your rhino skin. That won't let you get away with a half-effort. That will put you on the spot till you get it right.

Second, work hard at critiquing your fellow members. Read books on craft. Read lots of fiction. These activities will hone your own editing skills, enabling you to spot more inconsistencies in your own manuscript. You might even start getting requests from other writers to edit their stories. Imagine that--getting paid and learning at the same time.

Third, learn about the different types of editing available. Rachelle Gardner shared a fantastic article recently that details the different types of edits you might expect. Even more helpful, she posts a list of comments she's made on contracted books. It's a great visual for prepublished writers to see that even multipublished authors get the same kind of critique comments we do.

So, with all my thinking about editing (maybe it's because I'm in the middle of a client's big editing project), I thought I'd begin a weekly series, called Red-Letter Days. Each Monday, I'll post a snippet of writing that exhibits a particular writing issue, along with ways it can be fixed. I'd love for you to chime in with your ideas. After all, I'm still learning, too.

Question: What is the biggest editing issue that trips you up?

Agent Friday: Quivering Through Queries? Lift your spirits with SlushPile Hell

You're probably in one of two camps: you're either preparing to query, or you're biting your fingernails waiting for responses (of course, if you're going the self-pub route, you can skip past all the angst). If you're in the anticipation phase or the waiting phase, you can really use something to take your mind off your worries.

Written by a self-described (anonymous) "grumpy literary agent", SlushPile Hell posts snippets of the query letters you don't want to write. Think of the site as an education in what not to do.

This tongue-in-cheek blog has snippets of actual queries, with the agent's comments to the author. Don't worry, everything is anonymous, and the agent promises not to mock book concepts, plots, or actual writing. And it will probably make you laugh.

What can a writer learn from the mistakes of others?

Do your agent homework. Study the agent's website. Be aware of the agent's gender. Take note of the agent's preferred genres and submission guidelines. Personalize the query to the agent you're targeting. Do these tips seem obvious? That's because you're paying attention. Sadly, many writer's are not.

Don't only rely on spell-check. It's amazing that queries are sent with spelling errors, typos, and wonky grammar. Yes, querying can be stressful, but don't let your state of mind prevent you from running your query letter past your critique group. Don't have one? Check out these writers groups. Most have a forum encouraging writers to post their query letters for comments.

Don't overestimate yourself. Writers ought to have confidence in their work. After all, we do have to promote ourselves to a great extent. But watch the level of boasting in a critique letter. Telling an agent you're the next J.K. Rowling can sound pompous. Let your writing speak for itself.

Which SlushPile Hell entry made you laugh the most?

The Realities of Money and Novel-Writing: Can it really pay the bills?

The bottom-line question is this: Can writing novels really pay the bills? 

Of course, for a big-time author, there's no question. But what about mid-list authors, or novelists published by small presses, and self-published authors?

I decided it was time to examine the financial realities. I was already aware that even with a traditional publisher, I couldn't expect huge amounts of money. 

Advances get spread over a year or more. Agents and the government take their cut. Authors are increasingly expected to shell out money for publicity. And most books don't earn back their advances, so expecting a fat royalty check is a pipe dream for most authors.

It's really helpful when authors share the realities with those of us still on the journey. Be aware that many authors are restricted from giving their exact advances, but here are a few posts that will give you an idea:

Eric Wilson bares all about his income for ten novels.

Do you see a trend? These authors are not making a huge amount each year. What's the solution? Book sales. Being the author who actually receives royalties. And the way to encourage that is by writing the best book possible. Studying the craft of writing. Mastering marketing.

But what about self-publishing? Is it possible to earn more going the indie-route? J.A. Konrath certainly thinks so. And PassiveGuy shows how author Dean Wesley Smith plans to make $100,000 a year with only an hour a day of writing time. Very interesting.

Most of us long to be published because we want to touch readers. We want the validation that our words are meaningful. Money is nice, but it's not the biggest issue. We struggle with writing while keeping our jobs, and penning words around the rest of our lives. Because we have stories to tell.

Don't worry about me, I'll keep writing no matter what I make or don't make. I don't think I could stop. How about you?

Book Review: Immediate Fiction, by Jerry Cleaver

What excuses come to mind when someone asks why your book isn't finished? Writer's block? Lack of time? Lack of a cohesive idea? Jerry Cleaver tackles all those and more in Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course.

In seventeen chapters, Cleaver takes the reader through the entire creative process, from idea to marketing. He covers things like time management, self-editing (and self-abuse), staying on track, and what to do when writer's block hits.

Besides these topics, he covers all the different aspects of the craft of writing, like point of view, how to end scenes well, and how any short story can be turned into a novel.

Cleaver has taught fiction for years, most currently a teacher and writing coach at Chicago's Writing Loft, which he founded. His book and courses were developed out of his own frustration as a novice writer, trying to answer the question, "How do you write?"

He claims to have made every mistake possible for a writer, and wrote immediate fiction to share with others what not to do. And he does it well.

Find out more about Cleaver (and a hands-on course he offers) at The Complete Story.

What have you learned not to do?

Free Resources for Listening While You Write

Some writers create in silence. Others need quiet instrumentals. Still other writers enjoy rock music vibrating their keyboards. Which one are you?

For myself, I like either silence or instrumental music when I'm actually writing. Hearing words while I'm composing words is too conflicting. 

But when I'm brainstorming a scene, I like to hear the words. Some songs have inspired whole scenes and plot twists. 

I don't own an iPod. I haven't amassed a huge collection of music. But I've discovered a way to enlarge my musical horizons and bring variety in what I listen to. Personalized internet radio.

Several services offer (for free) the ability for users to create their own music "channels". You type in a song or artist you like, and the songs start to play. If a selection comes up you don't enjoy, just click 'thumbs down'. 

Soon, depending on your preferences, the software chooses other songs and artists based on the music's 'genomes'. You may discover groups and artists you never knew you'd like. Of course, if you don't enjoy them, they're easily eliminated.

As a writer, sometimes I'm in the mood for quiet piano instrumentals. I made a channel for that. Other times, I want songs with a particular flavor or theme. I'm able to create as many channels as I like. I'm designing a channel for the particular novel I'm working on right now. Sort of a 'movie soundtrack' for the book. If I get stuck while writing, listening to my soundtrack might be just the inspiration I need.

In a future novel, I'll need to be familiar with the chanting of monks. I'm sure one of these services will give me all I need, without having to spend money buying songs. Of course, whatever music I can't live without can be purchased easily through the sites.

Two services seem to be the most popular, Pandora and GrooveShark (Pandora is no longer free outside the US). There are many others, but these two appear to provide the most comprehensive music selection.

What do you listen to when you write? Are you the 'silent type', or do you need music to get the words flowing?

Hemingway's Tips on Writing

For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.                            ~Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway possessed many talents as a writer. A distinctive voice. Spare, tight prose. A genre all his own. What would he think of all the books on craft today? The multitude of writing conferences and workshops? The writing software--and even NaNoWriMo?

I decided to pull together some resources connected to Hemingway. Check them out. Then you can decide for yourself.

In A Short Course In Writing, Donald L. Hughes examines four points that Hemingway used in writing. I'm impressed that he would edit his stories until he couldn't find one word that wasn't essential.

Find even more tips and solutions in How to Write Well, the Ernest Hemingway Style.

Read about Hemingway's Iceberg Principle on Timeless Hemingway.

There's actually a book called Ernest Hemingway On Writing, by Larry Phillips.

And finally, here are two videos with more tips from Hemingway:

What do you think about editing out every non-essential word? Is it a realistic goal?

Agent Friday: Vickie Motter

Today we have one of the five agents from the Andrea Hurst Literary Agency. Vickie Motter started out as an intern after college, and made her way up to agenting soon after. Check out what she's looking for here.

Motter's blog, Navigating the Slushpile, is one you may want to add to your reader. I like her Wednesday posts, where she posts a review of a recently-read book. She puts a twist on it, by sharing why she might or might not be looking to represent similar books.

Here are a few posts that jumped out at me:

Motter answers questions on queries and partials, including what will bring an 'insta-no'.

When do you contact an agent who has your partial too long

Did you know that agents really have three slushpiles? Find out which one your manuscript might land in.

Have you ever wondered what to do if you received 'the call' from an agent? Motter explains the protocol in I Got An Offer...Now What?

Here's something I've been thinking about lately. I often transfer submissions from my critique partners to my ereader (I happen to have a Kindle) so I can read them in odd moments. The unfortunate thing is the files often lose their indents, and sometimes run paragraphs together. 

Agents often read partials and fulls on their ereaders, so it's in an author's best interest to make sure it appears the best way possible in an electronic format. Motter has a concise post explaining how to format a manuscript for an ereader. I'm going to give it a try.

Which of the slushpiles do you hope to be in?

When roadblocks get in the way--Encouragement from author Sherrilyn Kenyon

Writing is hard. Writing with huge boulders blocking your way is even harder. How do you keep going when everything in life seems to point at quitting?

Sherrilyn Kenyon has been there. Many times. She gave a keynote address at the recent Romance Writers of America conference, detailing exactly how she's kept going in the face of discouragement, medical issues, finances, rejection, and much more. If you've ever wondered if circumstances were telling you to quit, you should read her story first.

The complete transcript of her speech can be found at this link on Kenyon's Facebook page. If you're not able to access it,  she shares the same story on her blog.

Here's a quote to get you started:
"I am a case study in if you want it bad enough... if you’re willing to fight and believe, you can do it. Believe me. If I can be here, so can you. You just have to steer that ship through the storms and no matter how foggy the day, believe that there is a safe harbor somewhere out there and that you will find it."
Stories like these are one of the reasons I love to go to writer's conferences. It's all about one writer encouraging another to keep going.

Who has encouraged you when you were ready to quit? And have you been able to do the same for someone else?

Book Review: Writing Fiction for All You're Worth, by James Scott Bell

He's done it again. Author James Scott Bell has nailed another craft book. His latest is Writing Fiction for All You're Worth: Strategies and Techniques for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level, available on Kindle and Nook for $2.99. 

I've already devoured Plot and Structure (currently $1.99 on Kindle), Revision and Self-Editing, and The Art of War for Writers. It wasn't a hard decision to fork over a couple of bucks for this one.

James Scott Bell, trained as a lawyer, is not only a wonderful writer, but an excellent writing teacher, who is often in demand to give workshops at writing conferences. Though Plot & Structure was released way back in 2004, it was the number one bestselling craft book of the decade, and still maintains the number one position in fiction writing.

The main thing Bell wants writers to know is this: You can learn to write. You can learn to write better. It doesn't have to be a genetic thing. It takes instruction and practice.

Some of the topics Bell covers in the book:
*The six critical success factors of writers.
*The six critical success factors of fiction.
*How to self-publish the right way.
*The marks of a professional writer.
*How to benefit from participating in NaNoWriMo.
*The writing craft--thirty-one sections covering everything from what not to do on the opening page, to stress-free querying.
*The writing life--twenty essays on everything you need to know.

The book also includes a dozen interviews with writers like David Baldacci, Jeffrey Deaver, and Brad Thor. Don't miss a great book on craft. Even though it's an ebook, you can download the software to read it on your PC, Mac, or smartphone from Amazon.

What do you think about reading craft books electronically?

102 Resources for Fiction Writers

I found a wonderful reference last night--after the fireworks, of course! I'm off to the dentist.

C.S. Swarts, over at Here to Create has kept up an amazing list of resources for writers--aimed at writers of fiction.

You'll find dozens of links to helpful sites on Character, Point of View, and Dialogue. Also Plot, Conflict, Structure, Outlining, Setting, and World-Building. And that's not all--there's additional links for topics like Ideas and Inspiration, Revision, and Tools & Software.

It's a list you may want to bookmark.

Several resources caught my eye. Things like Creating a Character Bible, and 100 Character Development Questions for Writers. Quite a few of the resources lean toward writers of fantasy, especially world-building. Head on over and check out the links for yourself.

Have you ever created a character bible?

Agent Friday: Dawn Frederick with Red Sofa Literary

We're back with Agent Friday posts again. If you've missed some past agent highlights, click here to catch up. 

Today we have Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary. Along with her interns Gwen Fitzgerald and Jennie Goloboy, she's looking mainly for non-fiction, but also fiction for YA and middle grades. Check out the details of what she's looking for.

The Minnesota-based agent maintains an informative blog, with a series of interviews on a regular basis. Here are some other posts you might enjoy.

We've all seen the many books-turned-blog Cinderella stories. Could your idea bring the same success?  Frederick examines the issue in Is your idea 'blog worthy' or 'book ready'?

Frederick has some great posts on querying:
What not to do during the query process.
What to do with rejection: some stories of making lemonade from lemons.

If you're thinking about a writing conference: preparing for the conference, and what to do after the conference.

On Marketing:

And, in this interesting post introducing her interns, Frederick asks them how their opinion of the publishing industry has changed now that they're more familiar with the business. Interesting and hopeful answers.

Do you think there's still hope for traditional publishing?
How long do you see it lasting?


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