If you write fiction, and especially if you write companion novels or a series, you've probably got what Elizabeth Spann Craig calls "recurring storylines." These are elements that keep coming back in each book because they're important things to note about the characters, or the setting.
For instance, in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, Stephanie is constantly (mis)managing her waistline. That's a recurring story element ... it might not play a huge part in the books, but if in Book 32 of the series (which doesn't exist yet, so don't panic) Stephanie was suddenly slim, trim, and craved nary a single doughnut, readers would wonder.
How do you keep track of those mercurial little recurring elements in your own writing?
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4. "Online Learning Tip: Make the Most of Learning On the Go" on The Christina Katz Writing & Publishing Studio (Christina Katz)
Writers are always learning. We have to be curious and engaged in our world, or else we'll run out of material about which to write pretty quickly. But we're also always on the move, whether with the kids or friends or on assignment, overseas or stateside ... so how do we fit in time to coddle our need to know more (and more, and more, and ...)?
Check out this post for a couple of great suggestions from a seasoned author, whose tips are nothing if not practical and easily applied. Also, check out the app (and site) called Pocket, which I recently discovered; it enables you to save an article or blog post to read later, when you have time.
What method works best for you to keep feeding your desire for learning?
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3. "Actions vs. Choices: Crafting Better Plots" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)
Actions versus choices. Seems like a pretty straightforward differentiation, right? Say you're writing fiction. Your protagonist does something because that's what needs to happen next. It's in your outline. (Or in the back of your head, if you're a pantser.)
But what if that makes the protagonist's moves too ... predictable? Fiction writers want anything but for their heroes or heroines to be predictable. Readers who can predict what's going to happen next will quickly get bored and close the book. So what does it take to put a twist on that character action to make it less of a sure thing? Janice Hardy has the answers.
Pick a chapter at random in your work in progress and see whether your protagonist has more actions (foregone conclusions) than choices. What did you find?
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2. "Writing Fiction? 10 Sneaky Overwriting Traps to Avoid" on The Write Life (Daniela McVicker)
When does your story end? And ... are you sure?
Many writers of fiction actually tend to overwrite more than underwrite. You're worried about word count, so you spend a few extra hundred words here or there describing something in detail ... that doesn't actually need to be described because it isn't important to the plot. Things drag on for pages and pages beyond when the plot has been wrapped up. Overwriting is also called padding, and nine-point-nine times out of ten, you don't need it. Here's an in-depth post on what to watch for in your own writing, and how to correct your course.
Which of the ten overwriting traps is your nemesis?
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1. "9 Practical Tricks for Writing Your First Novel" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Jan Ellison, guest columnist)
Writing a novel? You and a lot of other people on the planet ... it seems like everybody wants (or intends) to write a book someday. But what is it that will set you apart from the rest? Here are ten lines of advice on the subject, and they don't just apply to writing your first novel. (Hey, if you've got one under your belt, why not make the second even better?)
Of course, Ellison's fantastic guidance begins with the real key that underlies everything else for a successful novelist: you must finish. That's first. Start with that.
Which practical trick for writing your novel had you heard before? Which hadn't you heard? Which did you need to hear today?
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That's the lineup for last week. This post is in a slightly different format than usual. I'm testing the theory of a little longer blurb about each article, plus questions to get you thinking. What do you think of the new format? Drop me a line and let me know!