I'm sorry to say that this will be my last post as your guide here. Due to changing circumstances in other parts of my life I will no longer have the time to give this site the attention it deserves.
My brief stay here has been fun and rewarding and I'm sorry to have to go so soon. I've learned a lot and really enjoyed getting to know many of you.
I wish you all the best in your writing adventures!
There are three ways I generally start writing a new story. Most often I start with the scrap of an idea, almost as often with a character, and once in a while a setting grabs me and starts the ball rolling.
There is a fourth way to get a story started, and it's one I've largely ignored. That method is to begin with a theme in mind. I've avoided this method of story creation largely to avoid writing fiction with a "message". I write to entertain, not educate and having my writing come across as a sermon does not appeal to me.
In researching theme and how best to use it I came across some interesting takes on theme that made me think differently. I now believe that starting with the theme in mind does not have to lead to preachy fiction at all. I also believe that the sooner you have a handle on your theme the faster and easier your writing will be.
Check out Know Your Theme and see how redefining theme can help your writing.
The first draft, for me is always the toughest. I know that once I get that down I have something I can edit, massage, and shape into a solid polished work. Something real. It's wading through the first draft that nearly stops me every time.
I think it's because I write too slowly. I get sidetracked. I start editing - which in a first draft is death. I know I need to power through, to just keep typing. But it's tough to do. It's hard to leave things in a messy, embarrassing state for long.
So I've started trying to up my word-count. To write fast. And the best way I've found to write faster is to do a little more planning, to structure things so I have a better idea where I'm going when I start to write. This small amount of planning just before each writing session has saved me tons of re-writing, and upped my daily word-count by a ton.
I've been taking that idea a bit further lately and really digging into story structure. I'll share my thoughts on that with you in an upcoming article.
For now, here are a few more thoughts on How to Write Faster.
I'd love to hear your tips and techniques for getting that first draft done, and how to write quickly.
Want to be a more interesting writer? Then lead a more interesting life.
It's that simple - and that difficult.
Writing can be a very solitary occupation, and most writers grow to be content with being alone for long stretches of time. While I think that this obsession with writing is pretty much a requirement of the working writer, it can make you dull. And that's a problem.
You might not even notice it at first since your previous life experiences have given you plenty to write about, at least for a while. But sooner or later you need to get out in the world and refill the creative tanks.
So remember to take a break from the keyboard and go do something. Anything. Interact with people, play basketball, go to the pub, it doesn't matter. Interesting, involved people have interesting stories to tell.
So be interesting, and your writing will never be dull.
First off I want to apologize for lack of blog posts lately. I was hammered with two nasty colds in a row and it was all I could do to get some articles written. But I'm back at it and the content will be flowing freely once again.
I've been examining my writing life and trying to make some decisions about what direction to go in a few areas. One of the tough decisions for me is the choice of genre. I love several categories of genre fiction and I've been finding it tricky to nail down exactly where to specialize.
That got me thinking about marketing in general and platform building in particular. I think my main excuse for not doing more to build a platform has been that I needed to know my genre. So with those two thoughts in mind I've added a couple of new articles to the site that I hope will help those of you with similar decisions to make.
Give them a read and feel free to comment as usual. I'll have some new stuff up soon.
My first few weeks as a guide here have been interesting and fun. It's made me take a serious look at my writing life and forced me to get more organized about when and how I do things - something we should all do more often.
Whenever I'm presented with a new writing challenge like this I tend to find inspiration, motivation and guidance in books on writing. I have a massive collection of these books and tend to read almost everything new that comes out.
The downside of this habit (addiction) is that I often use the time reading writing books as an excuse not to write while still feeling like I am being "productive". However, there are a few books that I find myself reaching for again and again that never fail to get me back in my chair and writing. I've just posted a review of my favorite one, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Please share some of your top reads on writing and creativity in the comments. I'd hate to think I missed one!
The Tuesday after a long weekend is rarely a productive one for me and today has been no different. I did have grand plans about getting up super-early and banging out a ton of great writing this morning, but after three days of inactivity I ended up sleeping as late as possible and dragging myself into work.
The real problem was that I took the entire weekend off. Three days without writing always shuts me down. If I had managed to do even a little work over the weekend I'm pretty sure that I would have jumped back in this morning with more gusto. My advice is to never go more than a day or two without writing. Every time I do it, I regret it and it takes me a week or more to get back in the groove.
If you're in the same boat after a few days off, make sure you write something today - anything. I have already promised myself I will not go to sleep tonight without putting some time in at the keyboard - you should do the same. Don't let a few lazy days derail your habits. Write!
If you need a little motivation to get started, check out some of these writing prompts.
Hello everyone, my name is Cliff Daigle and I'm your new Fiction Writing guide.
I'm really excited to have this opportunity to share what I know about writing and making a living as an artist. This has been a great site for years and I plan on continuing to pack it with informative articles, exercises and advice for writers at all levels. To start the ball rolling I've posted three new articles this week:
Please feel free to comment here and in the forums. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd like to see on the site.
The judges have whittled down the longlist of thirteen authors to a shortlist of six contenders for this year's coveted prize. The winner will be announced October 18th in London, England and will take home the cash prize of £50,000. Each of the six authors who made the shortlist will be awarded £2,500 and will receive a fancy, designer-bound edition of their book. Nice.
Here's the shortlist of six - there's always some great reading here and it looks like a pretty diverse group this year.
- Julian Barnes - The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
- Carol Birch - Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
- Patrick deWitt - The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
- Esi Edugyan - Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)
- Stephen Kelman - Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
- A.D. Miller - Snowdrops (Atlantic)
It's great to see a couple of my fellow Canucks on the list, Patrick deWitt and Esi Edugyan. It's the first time two Canadians have been on the shortlist in nine years. Congratulations!
In case you were wondering, last year's winner was Howard Jacobson for his novel The Finkler Question.
Check out the official Man Booker Prize site for more info.
As I prepare to leave About.com after five+ years of writing and editing this site, I've been reflecting on all the things I've learned -- from writing articles and blog posts and, more importantly, from comments and messages contributed by all of you. For my last post, I wanted to share some of these lessons, the things that have come to seem most important about the writing life.
Humility: We all make mistakes, and it takes guts to let other people see them. Don't be afraid to join a writing group, take a class, or post work on the forum. I was consistently impressed with the people who shared work in the monthly challenges: they understood that getting feedback is more important than any temporary fear or discomfort. It's a necessary part of becoming a better writer.
Writing Is Hard: I'm not saying it's always hard, but if you strive for excellence, there will be times when it is. For instance, it's hard to revise a novel for the third or fourth (or fifth) time. It's hard to get up early on a cold morning to write, or to head to a cafe when coworkers are going out for drinks. It's hard to be rejected by magazines, journals, or agents. These things are hard for everyone.
It's Worth It: Moderating this site, I'm constantly reminded of why we do it: of the satisfaction in dreaming up new stories or characters; in hearing that something we wrote meant something to another person; in spending a quiet afternoon lost in a story. It's satisfying to feel that your life has a purpose. And it's an amazing way to connect with other people.
There Are So Many Supportive Writers Out There: You've all been so generous with your time and energy -- you've been the best part of a very good job. I've witnessed writers all over the world helping each other with advice or criticism, taking time to write comments in the blog or on the forum. On a personal level, I have hundreds of emails, printed out or saved on my hard drive, so I'll always remember the people I got to know through this site, or who took the time to reach out to me.
Thank all of you for some very stimulating years. Whoever replaces me is very lucky: they'll have the best readers in the world. Good luck to all of you on your writing. May you have all the satisfaction and rewards possible from this writing life of ours. I hope to continue seeing your names and your work as the years go on. Thank you for letting me be a part of it here!