Tag Archives: Writer’s Digest

Writing tip Wednesday: “Creating a Series Character”

5 Secrets to Creating a Compelling Series Character

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/5-secrets-creating-compelling-series-character?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-nl-cmf-gla&utm_content=964941_EDT_GLA170823&utm_medium=email

By Barry Lancet

When I began my first book starring Jim Brodie, my goal was simply to write the best book I could. I didn’t have visions of a series. Then, as I polished the final draft, readying the manuscript for submission to an agent, new story ideas for Brodie began to pop into my head.

I took a step back to consider the possibility of making Brodie a series character, realizing that a lot depended on how Japantown was received. But I decided to give myself a little more breathing room just in case.

It’s vital to point out that even as I contemplated the idea of a series, I held nothing back from Japantown. Why? Because to make the team you have to bring your best game. That’s what I did and the book sold to Simon & Schuster and would go on to make a number of “best-of” lists and win the Barry Award for Best First Mystery.

By the time Japantown reached print, I was immersed in writing my second novel, Tokyo Kill, again with Brodie at the helm of another contemporary tale that, this time, veered back to the days of World War II. Why another Brodie book instead of a standalone? I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let me tell you what I did to create a little “breathing room.”

Over the years, I’d gleaned from interviews with other authors that the planning of their series characters followed one of two paths: either they allowed themselves flexibility for the future, or they moved hastily, and inadvertently penned themselves in. With this information at hand I made the following moves, and offer them here for you to think about:

  1. Keep the backstory detailed but open-ended enough to give yourself maneuverability.

For example, Brodie is an American born in Japan to American parents, an art dealer with a struggling antiques shop in San Francisco, and half-owner of a security firm built by his father in Tokyo. He’s also the father of a six-year-old girl. All of this gives me plenty to work with. He has the need to travel so I’m not pinned down with my setting. Two careers provide a multitude of opportunities for trouble; and he’s a single parent, which offers the chance for emotional exploration. Each of my books takes advantage of Brodie’s backstory.

  1. But you shouldn’t give too many extended details about the backstory.

Backstory, by nature, slows a story down, so for that reason alone it should be parsed out in drips over time. And when you do, make sure not to pin yourself down too much.

Which leads us to the next point: What should a series character be? Much will be specific to the setting, goals, and genre you choose, but here are three major aspects to consider:

  1. Make your character attractive to both male and female readers.

(Unless you’re working in a genre that zeroes in on one over the other.)

  1. Avoid common character clichés.

If your hero is a spy, steer away from the melancholy, burned-out agent, or the slick, overly smooth operator. If your protagonist is a private investigator, avoid the recovering alcoholic trope (it’s been done hundreds of times), or the lady’s man with an ex-wife or two.

That said, no rule or suggestion is all-inclusive, nor goes unbroken. If you must approach a stereotype, do so with the freshest point of view you can muster. Jeffery Deaver brilliantly turned the “wounded cop/private investigator” trope on its head in The Bone Collector by making his hero a nearly complete paraplegic, mentally fit but able to move little more than a finger. Michael Connelly handled the ex-wife syndrome with humor and pathos in the Lincoln Lawyer.

  1. I’ve saved the most intriguing item for last:

You don’t have to stray too far from home to find at least a portion of your protagonist’s personality, and here’s why.

Over the last five years, I’ve met and listened to any number of bestselling authors. What I’ve noticed (sometimes despite claims to the contrary) is that their series characters often exhibit a number of personality traits they themselves possess.

I’ve seen this too many times to ignore. The character may drive a different car, wear different clothes, and live in a different state, but, whether consciously or unconsciously (as in my case too), underlying similarities often emerge. At the same time, I saw the upside. These similarities give the authors a solid grasp on their characters, and their character a solid anchor in reality.

The lesson here is that you don’t have to bend over backwards to divorce yourself entirely from your character. Which is another way of saying you don’t need to be nervous about borrowing a part of yourself for your character.

The five factors above helped bring Jim Brodie to the printed and digital page. And how did that turn out?

After I finished Japantown, I sent it out to agents. Soon thereafter, I was fortunate enough to land my top choice in a list of ten (Robert Gottlieb of Trident Media Agency). Japantown was preempted by Simon & Schuster and optioned for TV for two years by J.J. Abrams (the series is now under consideration with a new producer).

When the dust settled, a contract for two books landed on my desk, soon to be followed by a second contract for two more books. The additional three books were contingent on Brodie putting in an appearance as the main character. His name appeared prominently in the contract, and he is the focus of each book. Brodie’s most far-flung adventure to date is his most recent, The Spy Across the Table, where his backstory has been fleshed out a tad more to include a choice secret.

In more ways than one, Jim Brodie has taken on a life of his own.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

Writing tip Wednesday: “Agents offer advice”

16 Agents Share 34 Tips for Success: From Studying the Market to Proper Querying

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/16-agents-share-34-tips-success-studying-market-proper-querying?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-nl-cmf-gla&utm_content=961824_EDT_GLA170809&utm_medium=email

Computers can be a pain to get to work rightBelow, 16 of our agents share tips that didn’t make the issue. Continue reading for advice on doing agent research, working with beta readers, establishing yourself as part of a community, writing query letters, and more:

The Market:

  • Read, read, read! The best way to become a successful writer is to be a passionate reader. —Susan Hawk, Upstart Crow Literary
  • Study the market and submit your best story for that market. Read the type of books you want to write to get a feel for the type of voice, story, and tone those publishers want. Put together the best proposal you can, including a professional head shot with your author biography. Write the proposal in third person. —Tamela Hancock Murray, The Steve Laube Agency
  • Read as much as you can in your genre. —Jennifer Johnson-Blalock, Liza Dawson Associates
  • Be aware of the market, but don’t spend too much time worrying about it – write the story that only you can write. —Susan Hawk, Upstart Crow Literary
  • Walk into a bookstore. Go to the section you think your book would go in. If you have a hard time deciding what section your book belongs in, you probably have some editing to do. It’s always better from a marketing standpoint if you can concretely place your book in a genre, or in this case on a shelf. —Vanessa Robins, Corvisiero Literary Agency

Research:

  • Do all the research you can. There are so many brilliant sources out there for free on how to pick an agent, how to write a query, and how to stay positive in a business that can be stressful and (at times) discouraging. And there are a lot of very friendly people in the community who like to give back and offer advice. —Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
  • Do your research. You want to learn as much as you can about publishing, from how to query agents to how to promote your debut. —Jennifer Johnson-Blalock, Liza Dawson Associates

Beta Readers and Critique Groups:

  • I think the best thing a writer can do when they finish their first or second draft is solicit the help of fellow writers, critique partners, and beta readers in revising the manuscript. Agents can always tell when a book has or has not been workshopped and polished with the help of other writers and editors, so this is not a step to be missed! —Hannah Fergesen, KT Literary
  • Join a writer’s group. Getting supportive feedback on your work is invaluable. And, writing can be lonely. Finding your writing family is key to a long-term writing career. —Susan Hawk, Upstart Crow Literary

Community:

  • A literary community is probably your strongest ally. Join writing groups, go to open mic nights, follow other authors online, and just be present. —Vanessa Robins, Corvisiero Literary Agency
  • Writers should get in the habit of giving back to other writers as often as possible. It’s good karma, and it makes you a part of a community that, when you do publish your book, will help you support it. Your end game isn’t just to be published; it’s about having a career and about being a good member of the community you’ve chosen. Writers are amazing people, and you don’t need an agent or a book deal to be a part of the writing community. —Jenny Herrera, David Black Agency

Platform:

  • Try to have an online platform. You don’t have to have ten thousand followers or know how to market inside and out, but just seeing that you have a workable start helps! —Kaitlyn Johnson, Corvisiero Literary Agency

Editing:

  • A clean query is the mark of an attentive writer. While a small typo probably won’t lead to an automatic “no,” getting the agent’s name wrong from the get-go might. —Amelia Appel, Triada US
  • Put your differences aside and become besties with editing. Even when you polish the thing shiny, your beta readers will have edits, then your agent, then more beta readers, then your agent again, then editors, and more editors. Basically, even when you think you’re done editing, you’re probably not. —Vanessa Robins, Corvisiero Literary Agency
  • Your manuscript is your resume. It should be as polished as possible and show exactly what your talent is as a writer. —Quressa Robinson, Nelson Literary Agency

Queries:

  • If you’re querying you should be making regular trips to bookstores. There’s so much to learn just by browsing displays. —Steven Salpeter, Curtis Brown
  • When it comes time to query, make sure your pitch is crystal clear and to the point. It’s said over and over again, but it’s true that agents won’t have the time or patience to read a long wind-up to the book’s description. —Rachel Vogel
  • Once you’re ready to query, try to remember you’re attempting a working relationship with someone. It’s no different than a job interview: practice respect, give your best work, and follow directions given. Agents notice when a writer proves they’d be great to work with, but they also take note when they see the opposite. —Kaitlyn Johnson, Corvisiero Literary Agency
  • Make sure you are ready to query and make sure you know what you’ve written. There’s nothing as disheartening for an agent as requesting a full manuscript only to be told it isn’t ready yet. —Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Literary Agency
  • When mapping out your sections on marketing and promotion, think outside the box: Who is this book written for? Who will those readers recommend it to? Don’t limit your readership by believing only one type of reader would be interested in it such as “romance readers” or “history buffs.” Readers are hungry for new experiences and your book could be just what they’re looking for—but they need to find it first. The more options you add to your proposal, the better armed your editor will be to go in and fight for your book in the war room. —Stacey Graham, Red Sofa Literary
  • I don’t read queries that aren’t specifically addressed to me; that are written in the voice of a character; that admit the manuscript isn’t complete (for fiction only); that are intentionally disrespectful. Your goal is not to shock me with your query, but to get me to read your sample pages. And in those pages, novels that begin with a dead body, a sweeping panorama of an exotic locale, a first person introduction (“Hi reader, my name is…), a character waking up, commentary on the weather or a dump of expository information are not interesting to me. —Noah Ballard, Curtis Brown
  • Even if you’re not certain something would be of interest to me if it falls within my ranges of interests I would always rather see something and decide for myself. When in doubt, query me. —Steven Salpeter, Curtis Brown
  • Agents are notorious for having a wide variety of guidelines. Oftentimes they will be in correlation to the overall guidelines for their specific agency, but they can also be guidelines that the agent has specifically created to further help writers with their submissions. It’s important to remember that these guidelines are there to help you. I understand that it can sometimes feel like a lot of hoops to jump through, but having guidelines allows for you as the writer to be able to create stronger and more impactful queries. When you’re working on your queries, always remember to include the submission guidelines within your overall research. The lack of effort when following submission guidelines is one of my biggest pet peeves as an agent, and if I can tell that a writer blatantly disregarded my guidelines, it results in an automatic dismissal of the query. —Justin Wells, Corvisiero Literary Agency

Agent-Author Relationship:

  • Whether you receive one offer of representation or ten, ask questions of the offering agent to make sure you are a good fit. Speak to them via video call in you’re not in the same city and don’t be afraid to ask for references. An author-agent relationship is a lot like a marriage and you want to make sure you’re partnering with someone who can sell your book and who you trust to advocate for you. —Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Literary Agency
  • The Call is when you and the agent assess each other. Do you fit? Are they really offering what you’re looking for? They are wondering the same things. This is a business partnership and like after any interview either party can decide that they aren’t a good match. But when the stars align, you both know it’s a good match, and now you have an agent! —Quressa Robinson, Nelson Literary Agency
  • Be polite and professional. When an agent takes on a client, they do so knowing that there is going to be a lot more to that relationship than just the written work. If an agent wants to work with you, it’s because they believe in your writing, but also in you. Agents want to take on clients they can see themselves successfully working with throughout their career. Given that, keep in mind that your query letter is your first impression, so it’s to your benefit to make it a good one. —Amelia Appel, Triada US
  • Be prepared to be a partner in your success. Your work as an author isn’t finished when you type, “the end.” It’s not over when you sign a publishing contract, either. Publishers love authors who are willing to learn how to be on social media, who will bring promotional ideas and opportunities to the table, and who can network. Don’t worry, if this sounds daunting, your agent will be there to walk you through it all. —Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Literary Agency

Perseverance:

  • Patience is by far the most important thing, for agents and authors. Even if you finally snag your dream agent, the process can be like a sloth using crutches, slow and painful (okay, only slightly painful). —Vanessa Robins, Corvisiero Literary Agency
  • Just like with finding a job it can be a long road before you get an offer and find the right spot, but it happens. Perseverance, dedication to your craft, adaptation, and a bit of gumption will lead you to success. —Quressa Robinson, Nelson Literary Agency
  • Hang in there! We completely understand that querying can be a nerve-wracking process and that rejection can be extremely disheartening. But, this is a super subjective business—what’s not right for one agent might be perfect for the next. Be open to feedback and don’t give up! —Amelia Appel, Triada US
  • Prepare for rejection. It happens to everyone, authors and agents alike (editors tell us no, too) and is part of the process of being published. As clichéd as it sounds, this is a marathon, not a sprint—this is especially true if you want to be a career novelist. —Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Literary Agency
  • Rejections are opportunities. They teach us about the marketplace, and sometimes reveal insights about a manuscript that can be used to make a book better and bring an author to another level in her or his career. —Steven Salpeter, Curtis Brown
  • As with any job, an agent may read your query letter and decide from there that they are not interested in moving forward to your manuscript (typically a partial). This could be subjective. It doesn’t speak to them. Or you may not have conveyed your knowledge and story in the best light. If an agent does move onto the manuscript and still decide to pass, again this is the subjective part of the job. Your writing could be solid, the story well plotted, but if the agent doesn’t connect to it, if they don’t have passion for it, if they don’t love it, then they know they need to move on. And you should want them to! If they pass on your manuscript this means that you don’t get to move on to the interview stage of the process, which is the call. —Quressa Robinson, Nelson Literary Agency
  • As cliché as it might sound, I will always encourage writers to never give up. I discuss the subjectivity of publishing, and the agent world a lot with other agents. Once you get your manuscript to the point where you start seeking an agent you really need to remain determined throughout the entire process. The idea that all agents look at manuscripts differently can never be stated enough. Don’t let an agent passing on your manuscript keep you from pursing your goal. I’ve heard of quite a few cases where agents have passed on manuscripts because it personally wasn’t a good fit for them, and another agent felt it was a great fit and was able to land a deal for the author. It all comes down to finding that one agent who falls in love with your manuscript, and will work to get it out there to editors. —Justin Wells, Corvisiero Literary Agency

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

Writing tip Wednesday: “Agent looking for YA and mysteries”

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/new-literary-agent-alert-joanna-mackenzie-nelson-literary-agency

 About Joanna MacKenzie: Joanna joined the Nelson Literary Agency at the start of 2017 following a tenure at a Chicago-based literary agency where she successfully placed numerous manuscripts that have gone on to become critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling novels. She represents a wide-range of writers, from YA (Kristen Simmons) and romance (Shana Galen) to mysteries and thrillers (John Galligan). Joanna loves working with authors who embrace the full publishing process (read: love revisions) and is committed to the stories her clients want to tell both with the words they put on paper, as well as with the careers the build. At the Nelson Literary Agency, Joanna is looking to expand her list in both adult and YA.

She is Seeking: Joanna is looking for literary-leaning projects with commercial potential and epic reads that beat with a universal heart (think The Secret History or The Namesake or Geek Love). In particular, she’s drawn to smart and timely women’s fiction as well as absorbing, character-driven mysteries and thrillers –Tana French is a particular favorite. She has a weird obsession with, what she calls, “child in jeopardy lit” and can’t get enough kick-ass mom heroines—she’d love to find the next Heather Gudenkauff. On the YA side, she’s interested in coming of age stories that possess a confident voice and characters she can’t stop thinking about (Morgan Matson is on her forever shelf).

How to Submit: Send a query via email to queryjoanna@nelsonagency.com. Please remember:

  • In the subject line, write QUERY and the title of your project. This will help ensure that your query isn’t accidentally deleted or caught in our spam filter.
  • In the body of your email, include a one-page query letter and the first ten pages of your manuscript.
  • No attachments Because of virus concerns, emails with attachments are deleted unread.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel | WritersDigest.com

7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel

Source: 7 Strategies for Revising Your Novel | WritersDigest.com

You’ve done it: typed The End. Those two wonderful words mark your graduation from always-wanted-to-write-a-novel to someone-who-did. Congratulations. Other ideas might be cooking away in the back of your brain, making you eager to start a new project. Often, this is where the spirit wanes as new writers lose momentum for the old manuscript. Because, you didn’t finish, did you? You only finished the draft. Now you have to focus on revising your novel.

Here’s the bad news (and there’s no good news): The rewrite is tougher than the draft. The draft is infatuation. The right rewrite strengthens your fiction into something that lasts to publication and gains a significant readership.

You know this task needs triage, so you won’t copyedit too soon. You line edit for tone, consistency and language, but you want more ways to improve.

Boost your novel-polishing skills with these seven strategies.

  1. Embrace the doubt.

Those murky feelings that cloud your mind when contemplating the massive task of revision? Welcome those doubts, that hesitation. A skeptical eye confers an appropriate attitude for rewriting. Every word in every sentence must carry its weight, either revealing character or advancing the story. Now be brave enough to cut or improve weak writing.

  1. Go back-to-front when possible.

Let’s say your plan for one brief session is a specific checkpoint. You’re verifying that sensory detail engages every scene, or perhaps you just want to note how many pages are in each chapter to ensure there aren’t twenty-five chapters of about fifteen pages while one chapter sprawls to thirty-five pages. If the revision item does not have to be done starting on page one and working to the last page, flip it and work backwards. This strategy prevents paging through in a direction that can distract you into an unintended sentence-by-sentence reread. The danger of that accidental read is that it risks dulling your reaction to the prose and worse, lets you fall in love with some passages while neglecting others.

  1. Structure your novel.

It’s not too late. Whether you’re a pantser, pantser-outliner hybrid, or an outliner, your finished draft can benefit from a new, careful outline. Note what questions and stakes the protagonist faces. How does he change in the end? What about the secondary cast?

Off the top of your head, do you know how many chapters are in your book? How does each chapter start and end? Where are the key actions and turning points found? How many scenes shape each chapter? Bracket each scene on a hard copy to reveal whether too much exposition lurks between the scenes. Is the climax close enough to the end that the bulk of the tale is composed of an uphill climb? Is the denouement placed to allow a satisfying, thoughtful resolution?

Gleaning the structure is a terrific exercise in critical examination. Graph and bullet point the features as though deconstructing someone else’s novel. This is not a time for emotional attachment to the piece; just factually note everything that displays the arc of the story, then see what surprises you or doesn’t fit.

  1. Revisit characterization.

With an accurate structure in hand, revisit your character construction while remembering the point of every passage. Did you use particularity in their descriptions? Is the reader shown what motivates every main character?

Crack open the draft to any chunk of dialogue. How obvious is it which of your well-crafted characters is speaking based on the sentences within the quotes? (Ah, yes, that’s just how a pilot/mad scientist/cowgirl would say such a thing.)

Perhaps your setting approaches the standing of character. Lovely, but don’t let the prose get flabby or insignificant—this is an opportunity for imaginative choices.

  1. Task your computer.

Various software programs highlight potential weak spots such as poor grammar and punctuation, or an overuse of modifiers, but any word processing program can be employed to help electronically. Do you have a pet phrase? Use the search function to find those repeats, then fix them. If you gave a person a verbal tic (perhaps she says “Nah” instead of “No”), do a quick find for the special term to ensure it’s not overused. And if another character displays the same tic, make it intentional, not an author slip.

When creating another hard copy to hand edit, select a different font for the second printing. Because of the different spacing, switching from Times New Roman to Courier can help freshen your eyes to the words.

  1. Listen to it.

Hopefully, you read aloud when revising, but you can do more. When my publisher sent author copies of my debut novel’s audio version, I reveled in that first experience of listening to a voice-acting pro read Orchids and Stone. However, I had heard it before, read by my computer.

There are good programs available—I use Natural Reader, which offers a free trial—that lets you listen to any document. This computer-generated reading will be flat, but the robotic affect is a good thing, because your writing must stand on its own, without inflection to carry the drama and dialogue. Chances are you’ll keep putting the program on pause and clicking back to the document to make edits.

Unintended alliterations, assonance and consonance borne in every sentence and surrounding paragraph are much more apparent when voiced. You might marvel over having missed some of these now-obvious editorial problems in print or on the monitor. You’ll hear repetitions that you didn’t see.

Good reading programs allow you to select the speed and gender of the speaker. After a significant rewrite, choose the other gender for the computer’s reading voice, then listen to the entire manuscript a second time. Chances are, you’ll still discover small improvements to make.

  1. Continue to study the craft.

While your polished draft gets some drawer time or is out with beta readers, reread diverse books on writing, studying instruction on revision. Let Robert Olen Butler admonish you to avoid abstraction, interpretation and izing (don’t generalize, summarize or analyze). Pay attention when David Morrell asks if you really want to publish that sentence in that form. Listen to Sol Stein’s warning about tunnel revision—the mistake of only tweaking small ticket items on a rewriting pass while missing the big picture and exposing your pages to excessive front-to-back reading, which makes your editing eye grow cold.

Improving your knowledge of the craft will improve your rewriting skills.

Here’s the deal: new writers often mire themselves and their work in the world of the unpublished due to a lack of self-editing their way to a polished manuscript. The only hope your draft has of becoming a well-read novel is you, and how much effort you put into the rewrite. Go all in.

***

Lisa Preston. Preston is the author of Orchids and Stone as well as several nonfiction books on animal care. Her experiences as a mountain climber, fire-department paramedic, and police sergeant are channeled into fiction that is suspenseful, fast paced, and well acquainted with human drama. She has lived in Arizona, California, and Alaska and now makes her home in western Washington. Visit her at lisapreston.com and on Facebook at facebook.com/lisa.preston.3152.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

5 Ways to Combat Author Anxiety | WritersDigest.com

Brynn Kelly, author of DECEPTION ISLAND (June 2016, HQN Books), shares 5 tips for moving past Author Anxiety and to keep writing.

Source: 5 Ways to Combat Author Anxiety | WritersDigest.com

It turns out Author Anxiety is a Thing. It’s not just me.

I discovered this on the eve of publication of my debut novel, DECEPTION ISLAND, when I was silly enough to Google my shiny new title. Up popped a Netgalley reviewer live-tweeting as she read it. Only she was hating it—pulling it apart chapter by chapter.

I’d had loads of great reviews—in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, on dozens of blogs—but this one hobby reviewer withered my fragile confidence. It was the intimacy of it. I could see what she looked like, I could see what page she was reading, I could certainly see exactly what she thought of the story. And I couldn’t stop refreshing. Because I’m an idiot.

I’ve been a journalist for two decades and I’ve published a bunch of nonfiction books, so public criticism is nothing new. Why, then, did this rattle me?

I did what any 21st century dweller does when faced with a 21st century dilemma. I Googled. And I discovered I wasn’t alone. Not only is Author Anxiety a Thing, but it’s such a Thing that, yes, it deserves initial caps. I set out to find a remedy before this vile feeling paralyzed me from writing another fictional word. In the interests of author solidarity, I’m sharing five of my best cures.

1. Find perspective
Many years ago, to finance my journalism degree, I worked as a TV publicist. A fun job but intensely shallow. (Ask me anything about “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place.”) Even so, like all jobs, sometimes it got stressful. The most important lesson I learned from that two years was from a boss who was fond of saying, “It’s entertainment. It’s not f***ing brain surgery.” Same goes for my novel. It’s a romantic thriller. It’s not important. My bad day at work is when a reader isn’t entertained or moved and I lose that reader. I’m not a doctor who has lost a patient or an air-traffic controller who’s lost a plane. The worst-case scenario? This novel tanks, everyone forgets about it, and I write another one.

2. Embrace imperfection
Don’t tell my publisher this, but DECEPTION ISLAND isn’t perfect. There, I’ve said it. What a relief. I could have spent three decades rewriting it and it still wouldn’t be perfect. There’s no such thing as perfection in creative endeavor. At some point—usually when a deadline hits—you must step away from your manuscript and say, “There, it’s done. It’s the best I can do right now.” That book has become your past, not your future. It’s not even your present, anymore. The only thing that remains wholly in your control is your next book.

3. Get productive
If I read a bad review, suddenly I don’t feel like writing. But you know what? A good writing day blows away my doubt and fear. And studies into motivation have found that the muse kicks in after you begin a task, not before. Don’t feel like writing because someone just told the (virtual) world that you suck? Open your WIP and start somewhere, anywhere. Tinker with a paragraph you wrote a year ago, write a random exchange of dialogue, change the font. Just. Start. Your brain will light up, the motivation will come and the angst will evaporate.

4. Log out
Only one thing will make you a successful novelist: writing novels. Let the virtual world live without you—especially if it drags you down. Forget the rules that you must regularly post on social media and engage online. If bad reviews on Goodreads or Amazon discourage you, don’t read them. If you can’t help flicking onto them—because validation is addictive— but you hate yourself for it, get a productivity app and block those sites, and any others that routinely make your heart soar and sink. (If a review falls in a forest…) Ray Bradbury once said: “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” And if you just want the boost without the pain? Ask a friend to email you only the great reviews, in a monthly digest. It’s not a cop-out. It’s sensible.

5. Escape
If that sniping little head of yours is not a pleasant place to hang out, get out of it. Do something immersive: play a card game with your kid, see a movie, whack a tennis ball around a court. When you return, you should find your mind is a more agreeable—and productive—environment. Keep it that way by throwing a little love into the world to offset the negativity. Tweet an author about how much you enjoyed her book—because she may be feeling Author Anxiety today, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday

Writing tip Wednesday: “Healthy writing”

11-reasons-writing-is-good-for-your-health

Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/11-reasons-writing-good-health?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-nl-170214&utm_content=921445_WDE170214&utm_medium=email

Leave a comment

February 15, 2017 · 11:56 am

Writing tip Wednesday: “Write better Villains”

How to Write Better Villains: 5 Ways to Get Into the Mind of a Psychopath

By Peter James

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/write-better-villains-5-ways-get-mind-psychopath?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=wir-bak-170124&utm_content=915933_WDE170124&utm_medium=email

1. Where to find a psychopath who will talk to you – the importance of meeting your monster.
Over my years of research for my Roy Grace mystery novels I’ve given many talks in prisons for the charity, The Reading Agency, which encourages literacy in UK prisons, as it gives me the opportunity to meet many different kinds of criminal face to face.

I had been wanting to write about a female “black widow” character for some time, and had been studying past cases, and thinking hard about creating a convincing character. Three years ago I was talking in a women’s prison and there was a well-spoken middle-aged woman in the audience who was asking particularly smart questions about literature. She fascinated me, being clearly well educated and I wondered what crime she had committed. Perhaps she killed someone drunk driving, or something like that, I wondered?

steve-james-featuredOne big perk of my talks is that I get to mingle with the prisoners after and chat to them one-on-one. I made a beeline for her. I never ask a prisoner outright what they have done – it’s not proper etiquette! So as an icebreaker I said, ‘How much longer do you have to serve?’

She replied, in a booming voice, ‘Nine and a half more bloody years – and it’s just not fair! A woman did exactly what I did, in London, and she’s only got six more years to go.’

‘So, what brought you in here?’ I asked, somewhat startled.

‘I poisoned my mother-in-law, the old bag!’

‘OK,’ I replied, somewhat astonished. Then she went on.
‘The thing was, she went into hospital to die, so I embezzled her bank account. Then the bloody woman didn’t die – she came home. I realized she would find out so I had to poison her. Then I realized my husband would find out so I had to poison him, too. And it’s just not fair – this woman in London did exactly what I did and she’s only got six more years!’

As I was being taken back out by a prison officer I said to him, ‘Is this woman for real?’

‘Oh yes sir, he replied. ‘Her husband was three months on life support and he has permanent brain damage – and she’s just angry about the length of her sentence…’

I knew at once I had found my character for Love You Dead!

2. Make your monsters lovable.

If you think about the most endearing – and enduring – characters in the history of literature they are the ones that are not simply portrayed as black and white evil, but with shades of coloring. Think about Dracula – he is a monster but he has huge charisma and charm. Frankenstein’s monster turns to his creator, Dr Frankenstein and tells him he never wanted to be born. Hannibal Lecter, perhaps the most success monster in all of modern literature, is enormously charming, charismatic, he has style and people find themselves rooting for him, despite knowing just how utterly evil he really is.

3. Avoid stereotypes. A psychopath isn’t always a man in black in a dark alley with a sharp knife.

It may be a surprise to some people, but yes, there really are good psychopaths as well as bad ones. Or perhaps, paraphrasing from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, puts it into better perspective: Some psychopaths are less evil than others. He could be a past or a President of the United States? The CEO of a Fortune 100 company? Being a psychopath is the best qualification to get you to the top of a chosen path in life, but the worst to have once you are there: The reason most serial killers get away with it so long is that they are bright and cunning – and often total chameleons, able to blend into society. Ted Bundy, America’s worst to date is a classic example. A good-looking, charismatic former law student, estimated to have killed and raped over 100 young women. But it’s not just a good qualification if you want to be a serial killer, it’s a great one if you want to become a captain of industry or a top politician. The combination of charm, intelligence and utter ruthlessness is potent. The psychopath is capable of saying anything just to get to the top – how many politicians do we all know who’ve said totally opposing things many times during their climb up the greasy pole. But ultimately it is hubris that can be their downfall because their lack of empathy means they fail to read the warning signs. President Richard Nixon is a classic; Idi Amin; Saddam Hussein; Gadhafi. And how many CEOs of major companies, like Bernie Madoff and the late Robert Maxwell?

4. How to come up with a well-developed backstory for your psychopathic character.

Some years ago I spent a day at Broadmoor, the UK’s premier high-security psychiatric hospital. It took me a year before my request was accepted, but it was worthwhile because what I saw and learned there has helped me with so many subsequent characters. The qualification for admission to Broadmoor is, essentially, to be violently criminally insane. I asked the resident chaplain if he felt that there were some people who were born evil, or did something happen in their lives to turn them that way?

He replied that the inmates were divided roughly 50/50 into schizophrenics and psychopaths. Schizophrenia was a chemically treatable mental illness, and provided they took their medication, around 70% of the inmates in this category could eventually go back into the world and live ordinary lives. But for the psychopaths, it was very different.

He explained a psychopath is likely to first present symptoms at around the age of four. The majority is male but there are female ones also – as we will see. The earliest signs are likely to be a lack of empathy and no real sense of a moral code of right or wrong. A boy steals his best friend’s favourite toy – with absolutely zero guilt. He will also from an early age be an accomplished liar – and rarely found out.

The psychopath brought up in a loving, stable family may well go on to become a hugely successful businessman or politician. But the one brought up in a broken home, or a violent, abusive situation, is likely to become dangerously warped. Many serial killers come from such latter backgrounds, as did Adolf Hitler who had a bullying father who would not let him pursue the career as a painter he wanted in life.

5. Talk through any major villain you are creating with a forensic psychiatrist or psychologist.

I was chatting at lunch with former armed serial bank robber, and self-confessed psychopath, Steve Tulley. As a teenager in prison, for his first robbery, he met criminal legend Reggie Kray, and persuaded him to let him be his pupil and teach him everything he knew. At 58, broke, Tulley is living in a bedsit in Brighton and has spent more of his life in jail than free. I asked him what was the largest sum he had ever got away with. He told me it was £50k in a bank job. So what did he do with the money? He replied, excitedly that he’d rented a suite in Brighton’s Metropole Hotel and, in his words, ‘Larged it for six months until it was all gone.”

I asked Steve if he had the chance to live his life over again would he have done it differently? ‘No,’ he replied with a gleam in his eyes. ‘I’d do it all again. It’s the adrenaline, you see!’

From subsequently talking to forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, I’ve learned that this “adrenaline” buzz that Steve talks of goes hand-in-hand, with some criminals, with the ruthless, chaotic, hand-to-mouth existence they lead. One of the most chilling things I ever saw was the police video of Dennis Rader – the BTK Strangler– confessing. When asked why he had bound, tortured and killed – horrifically – his victims he replied, simply and matter-of-factly, ‘It was erotic, I got a buzz from it.”

Leave a comment

Filed under 2017, writing tip, Writing Tip Wednesday, writing tips