Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 4-10, 2020

Now that we’ve entered month seven of the pandemic, we have to balance self-care with medical compliance. Be kind to yourself and nurture your creativity with some informal writerly learnings.

Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.

Wear your masks. Maintain physical distance. Get your flu shot as soon as you can. Sacrifice now (and really, it’s not that much of a sacrifice) will mean that fewer people have to contract covid-19 and fewer people have to die from it. Compliance is not a violation of your rights. It is respect for your fellow human beings.

Princess Weekes critiques Antebellum and movies about slavery in general. Melina Pendulum

Abigail K. Perry does another Story Grid scene analysis: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Erin Tyler shares five tips for writing about family dynamics. DIY MFA

Joanna Penn interviews K.M. Weiland about outlining your novel and filling the well. The Creative Penn

Over on Helping Writers Become Authors, K.M. points out the link between your story’s first and third plot points.

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten tips for killing off characters.

Janice Hardy shows you what makes a good beginning (if you’re struggling with yours). Then, she explains what makes a good middle (beware of getting stuck in the mud). Fiction University

Leslie Vedder shares three tips for cutting your word count (without giving your whole story the axe). Jane Friedman

If you’re not sure about NaNoWriMo, Shaelin looks at the pros and cons. Reedsy

Therese Walsh: the edge of now, and its gift for writers. Then, Donald Maass discusses timeless endings. Kathryn Craft lists five ways paragraphing supports story. Writer Unboxed

The girly girl trope, explained. The Take

Chris Winkle lists five signs your story is classist. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes the Star Trek series finales, from worst to best. Mythcreants

Jill Bearup explains why a corset stopping a knife strike (ala Enola Holmes) is plausible.

Words with lost meanings (AKA that word you keep using. I don’t think is means what you think it means). Merriam-Webster

Petra Mayer: amidst global troubles, the MacArthur “Genius” Grant winners provoke and inspire, including N.K. Jemisin, Jacqueline Woodson, and Christina Rivera Garza. NPR

Emma Reynolds reports that the 2020 Nobel Prize for literature awarded to Louise Glück. CNN

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends.

Ad Astra 2016, day 2: Common mistakes from an editor’s perspective

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Dominik Parisien, Linda Poitevin, Nina Munteanu

MostCommonMistakes

With this session, I chose a different approach. There was a lot of discussion and insight, with examples from various editing projects, none of which I was able to capture effectively on the page. The editors focused on the three parts of a story, the beginning, middle, and end, and, interestingly enough, they discussed three main problems with each part of a story.

As a result, this is a very point-form summary of the main points of the panel.

So here’s the description of the panel from the program:

Whether it’s easy-to-correct grammatical errors or awkward sentence structure, or more complex issues related to characterization, plot, or research, in this panel you’ll hear real editors share the most common mistakes that they see new or inexperienced writers make and tips on how to avoid them. They’ll tell you the things they encounter that have a simple fix, but also the things they encounter that are warning signs of larger problems.

Problems with beginnings

  • Not starting in the right place. Too early (prologues/backstory) or too late (character in danger immediately/no reader investment).
  • Not hooking the reader. If the reader puts the book down, you’re done before you’ve even gotten started.
  • Not having a distinctive, crisp voice.

Mel’s note: Most of these problems can only be solved by experience, either the author’s own, gained through practice, or by leveraging the experience of others, with the help of good critique partners/beta readers/freelance editor.

Problems with middles

  • Solving the character’s problem too early in the narrative. The story ends when the character achieves their goal.
  • Not knowing the story you’re telling/theme.
  • Presenting event after event to get the character from point A (the beginning) to point B (the end).

Mel’s note: Points two and three are related. If you don’t have a handle on your story and its theme, you’re most often going to end up with a series of unrelated events. My recommendation: read Steven Pressfield’s blog and books, and read to Shawn Coyne’s (Steven’s editor) Story Grid book and blog (and now podcast with Tim Grahl—excellent).

Problems with endings

  • Not ending (!).
  • Setting up for a series when the novel is a standalone, or failing to set up for another book when it’s a series.
  • No payoff for the reader/unsatisfactory ending.

Mel’s note: Begin with the ending in mind, even if you’re a die-hard pantser. Endings are torture if you’ve given them no thought until you get there and you’ll likely finish your draft with a hefty case of post-partum depression. Also, one of your editing exercises should be to ‘reverse engineer’ your story from the ending back to the beginning. You can see where important bits of foreshadowing need to be.

And that is my final entry in Ad Astra 2016 reportage. There were readings and launches and the Guest of Honour Brunch, but I wanted to enjoy those rather than record notes on them 😉

See you on Tipsday!