Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 23-29, 2019

Welcome July! We’ve finally hit summer up here in northeastern Ontario. And it was just Canada Day (yesterday)! It’s time to celebrate with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

CanadaDay

Nathan Bransford explains how to handle multiple protagonists in a query letter. Later in the week, he shares a list of character strengths and weaknesses.

Julie Duffy says, creation is messy—and that’s okay. Barbara O’Neal is writing the next book. John J. Kelley lauds stories that liberate. Writer Unboxed

Abigail K. Perry examines James Scott Bell’s signpost scene #12: mounting forces. Brenda Joyce Patterson takes a deep dive into historical poetry. DIY MFA

Lisa Hall-Wilson wants you to make your setting real with strategic description. Tasha Seegmiller explains how to survive a writing crisis. Laura drake talks ideation: where do ideas come from? Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci lists ten reasons you’re not “making it” as a writer.

Again, Alexa Donne riffs on a similar theme: five reasons fiction writers quit.

K.M. Weiland shares four ways to write gripping internal narrative with the help of a brave critique volunteer. Helping Writers Become Authors

What does “plot reveals character” mean? Jami Gold has the answer.

Orly Konig proposes mind mapping as a pantser’s path to plotting. Fiction University

Oren Ashkenazi looks at six stories that focus too much on side characters. Mythcreants

Molly Templeton: YA Twitter can be toxic, but it can also point out real problems. Buzzfeed

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you found something you need to help move your current creative project forward.

Until Thursday, be well, my friends!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Mar 3-9, 2019

I have a lot of informal writerly learnings for you this week.

By the way, a couple weeks ago, I decided to group posts by blog/source. Are you liking this slight rearrangement, or do you find it more difficult to read? Let me know, if you wish, in the comments. I can always change things back. More whitespace on the page can be helpful for readers.

Oren Ashkenazi examines six common mistakes in fight scenes and explains how to avoid them. Bunny explains how to use the uncanny in your writing. Mythcreants

Greer Macallister explains what it means to be a working writer. Sophie Masson outlines the options for planning your book launch (‘cause not every publisher has budget for that anymore). Donald Maass eschews his usual concise and pithy titles in this installment: nasty, menacing, and murderous protagonists and why we love them. Alma Katsu offers tips for complex historical research. David Corbett writes about what it means to sink into the bog. Kathryn Magendie wants to thank those who encourage us to write and dig deeper. Writer Unboxed

Joanna Penn interviews Sacha Black on how to create heroes and villains for the Creative Penn podcast. Then Bharat Krishnan stops by to discuss how to write diversity authentically. The Creative Penn

James Scott Bell visits Writers Helping Writers: does every protagonist need an arc? Spoilers: yes, but it doesn’t have to be a positive or negative change arc. Sometimes … it’s flat (no change). Janice Hardy stops by later in the week to point out three ways writers tell, don’t show and how to fix them.

Abigail K. Perry examines another of James Scott Bell’s signpost scenes. This time, #8: pet the dog. Brenda Joyce Patterson takes a deep dive into flash non-fiction. Gabriela Pereira interviews Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams for DIY MFA radio. Rachel Thompson list five ways to celebrate women and non-binary authors on International Women’s Day. DIY MFA

Fae Rowan wants to write the perfect book. Spoiler: it’s not possible. What to do instead 😉 Then, Julie Glover wonders, have you forgotten to have fun writing? Writers in the Storm

Susan DeFreitas: when your query reveals a story-level problem. Jane Friedman

Self-rejection: what it is, why you do it, and how to chuck its ass out an airlock. Chuck Wendig, Terribleminds.

Ammi-Joan Paquette is taming the synopsis with these four steps. Writer’s Digest

Jami Gold says, what makes a story uplifting is more than a happy ending.

Rosa Saba: authors irritated by “smug” defense of the Vancouver website they say is stealing their work. Readers, shun ebook.bike. SHUN! The Toronto Star

And that is tipsday for this week. Come back on Thursday for some inspiration and research resources.

Until then, be well, my friends!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 10-16, 2019

Here we are. How is it already the third week of February? Console yourself with some informal writerly learnings *hugs*

Louise Tondeur guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: the myth of plan first and write later (or, you never only write one way).

Rheea Mukherjee joins Writer Unboxed: writing characters who are “smarter” than you.

Kathryn Craft: your story’s valentine to the world (AKA, your query, synopsis, and pages). Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland critiques a brave writer’s work to show how paragraph breaks guide the reader’s experience. Helping Writers Become Authors

September C. Fawkes says, look forward, not backward, to pull your reader in. Writers Helping Writers

Margie Lawson stops by Writers in the Storm to help you put fresh faces on the page.

Sara Letourneau offers some further reading on the theme of family. DIY MFA

Becca Puglisi visits DIY MFA: five vehicles for showing emotion.

Chris Winkle: optimizing your story ideas for stronger engagement. Then, Oren Ashkenazi reveals six mistakes that can kill a great plot. Mythcreants

Chuck Wendig says, your ideas aren’t that interesting. This is less about making you feel bad than about making sure your ideas don’t take the place of, like, actual writing. Terribleminds

In honour of Valentines, Jenna Moreci offers her top ten tips for writing sex scenes. [Features discussion of sex and sexuality. Yeah. Even so, had to be said.]

 

Krista D. Ball rants: why is AUTHOR NAME taking so long to write their next book? This made me wonder if these impatient readers think they own writers? At the cost of $10 to $20 per book? Really? Gear down, people. Reddit

Later in the week, an 11:45 pm amber alert (and subsequent rescind after midnight) in Ontario resulted in a strange outcry of people who didn’t want their sleep disturbed, even after they learned that the child featured in the alert had been murdered. Seriously? Disturb me all night, every night, if it saves a life.

On that boggling note, I leave you until Thursday, when you can come back for some thoughty.

Until then, be well, my friends.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 7-13, 2018

I’m back with another batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂

DiAnn Mills helps you find your character’s blind spot. Writer Unboxed

Jeanne Kisacky explores the link between non-verbal communication and backstory. Writer Unboxed

Sarah Callender: knowing when you’ve peaked. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie considers the tiny former planet. What we can learn about persistence from Pluto. Writer Unboxed

Jenny Hansen contemplates the eternal question: to NaNo, or not to NaNo … ? Writers in the Storm

Orly Konig share how squirrel-brain helped her writing. Writers in the Storm

Sacha Black explains how to redeem your villain with killer twists. Writers Helping Writers

Deborah Dixon explains why representation in literature is important and how to handle it. Writers Helping Writers

Pamela Taylor examines the six key elements of historical narrative. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Jennie Nash for DIY MFA radio: empower yourself and your writing.

Jenn Walton shares five benefits of tough feedback. DIY MFA

Janice Hardy stops by Jami Gold’s blog to show you how to use focused brainstorming to develop your plot.

Literary agent Britt Siess shares five steps to nailing your query letter. Writer’s Digest

Chuck Wendig writes a post for world mental health day: when writer’s block is actually depression.  Later in the week, he recounts his firing from Marvel. It’s a travesty, a triumph of trolls. Chuck’s astute irreverence has inspired me and saved my writerly sanity more times than I can count. Terribleminds

Oren Ashkenazi analyzes stories in which six characters are siloed into separate stories. Mythcreants

And that was Tipsday.

Come back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty.

Until then, be well!

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 9-15, 2018

Another awesome week of informal writerly learnings.

Rochelle Deans covers for K.M. Weiland while she’s on hiatus: three tips for writing a story that’s better than its flaws. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jenny Hansen wonders, have you lost touch with your inner avid reader? Writers in the Storm

Julie Glover suggests four easy edits to make your story flow better. Writers in the Storm

David Corbett is gearing up for getting out: the conference experience. Writer Unboxed

Jami Gold drops by Writers Helping Writers to apply lessons from TV to chapter hooks: and … action!

Over on her own blog, Jami wonders, what do you want to write that you haven’t yet?

Kristen Lamb discusses time as a literary device: flashbacks vs. non-linear structure.

Laurence MacNaughton offers five tips for writing group success. Fiction University

Kristen Lamb helps you decipher the log line: can you pitch your entire story in one sentence?

Ellen Brock offers a two-part series on writing a query letter. Here’s part one:

 

And part two:

 

Here’s my latest DIY MFA column: world building with the celestial objects of our Solar System.

On episode 217 of DIY MFA Radio, Gabriela Pereira interviews Yang Huang: write dangerously. Later in the week, Gabriela presents the opposite is possible theory of character development. DIY MFA

Chuck Wendig says, you gotta trust in the process. Terribleminds

Jim C. Hines explains what to do when you’re called out on something problematic

Chris Winkle explains why English needs singular they. Then, Oren Ashkenazi discusses six pieces of misunderstood storytelling advice. Mythcreants

So looking forward to Outlander season 4.

 

Be well until Thursday, when you can visit again to pick up some thoughty 😉

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 24-30, 2018

It’s time for your weekly dose of informal writerly learnings.

/rant on/

I’ll start off on a negative note. Harlan Ellison died last week, but I have purposefully not posted about it or shared any posts about it on social media. Though he was influential in the science fiction universe and wrote much that is considered objectively great fiction (he was even a consultant on my favourite series ever, Babylon 5), I have never read any of his work. I wondered why that was and realized that I instinctively disliked the man in the interviews in which I saw him. Since, I have learned that he was a universal asshole and a misogynist prick. The incident with Connie Willis at the 2006 Hugos was just one, very public incident. For the record, I may read his work someday, but regardless of what I think of the man as a writer, I will always think of him as a poor example of a human being. I don’t care what his damage was, to be honest. It’s no excuse. We must do better, be better, than the pathetically low bar he set.

/rant off/

Now, on to the good stuff.

Patrice Williams Marks stops by Writer Unboxed: what is a sensitivity reader, and can I become one?

Susan Spann says, fear is a liar. Inspirational. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal considers light and dark, and writing with duende. “Duende is the dark magic, the force of Other, that enters the work and turns it from something interesting, maybe even really good, into something transcendent. It is born of the knowledge that death walks among us, that sorrow will mark you with her handprint, that we are all doomed to be forgotten.” Yum!  Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb wonders, is juggling multiple writing projects at once is exhausting or a bright idea? Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland: writing as the art of thinking clearly in six steps. Helping Writers Become Authors

Victoria Mixon: five advantages of rereading.

Joanna Penn interviews Michaelbrent Collings about writing with depression. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford explains how to list your publishing credits in a query letter.

A.K. Perry continues her exploration of James Scott Bell’s signpost scenes: trouble brewing. DIY MFA

Ambre Dawn Leffler shares five tai chi and yoga techniques to help with writer focus. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira offers six writing exercises to fuel your creativity. Writer’s Digest

Jami Gold breaks down the revision process, so you can improve your storytelling.

Lisa Granshaw offers an oral history of Babylon 5, the beloved TV novel that showed us a different way to tell a science fiction story. SyFy

Thu-Huong Ha: No mas, say the writers. How bilingual authors are challenging the practice of italicizing non-English words. Quartzy

MTV’s Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey – six phrases with racist origins.

 

Jessica Leigh Hester: why medieval monasteries branded their books. Atlas Obscura

Arika Okrent presents the curious origins of 16 common phrases. Mental Floss

And that was Tipsday for this week.

I hope all of my Canadian friends had a LOVELY Canada Day long weekend (today will have been our Tuesday-that-feels-like-a-Monday) and that all of my friends in the US will have an equally enjoyable Independence Day holiday.

Be well until Thursday rolls around and don’t forget to come back for some quality thoughty.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 4-10, 2017

It’s another week chock full of informal writerly learnings!

K.M. Weiland wonders, are you a writer, or a storyteller? Helping Writers Become Authors

Julia Fierro guest posts on Writer Unboxed. The three tiers of point of view technique: observation, interpretation, and imagination.

Gwendolyn Womack also stops by Writer Unboxed to write about intuition and writing: what happens next?

Kathryn Craft: early hints of backstory. How to work backstory into your story from the first line. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores mind to muscle focus (self-awareness) for writers. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau shares part ten of her developing themes in your stories series: the act II crisis. DIY MFA

G. Myrthil teaches SCBWI conference 101. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira shares her experience at this year’s Book Expo for DIY MFA radio.

Dawn Field shares five ways to improve your verbal imagery. DIY MFA

K. Tempest Bradford writes about WisCon and who is allowed to feel welcome (hint: it’s everyone).

Janice Hardy helps us shift between drafting and editing. Fiction University

Later in the week, Janice wonders, how many settings does your novel need? Fiction University

James Scott Bell explains how to let your characters live and breathe. Writers Helping Writers

Jami Gold explores Wonder Woman as the essence of a strong female character. [For moar Wondy, see below!]

Sonja Yoerg guest posts on Writer’s Digest: how to treat mentally ill characters in your novels.

Fae Rowan lists eleven writers’ survival tools. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle examines the four critical elements that make stories popular. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb shows us how to remain calm when it all goes pear-shaped.

Tanya Huff shares her experience writing a series: what goes around, shoots back. Unbound Worlds

Jenna Moreci shares her self-editing process:

 

Elise Holland visits Jane Friedman’s blog to offer advice on the perfect cover letter.

Nathan Bransford offers a brief but comprehensive guide on how to research literary agents. Later in the week Rachel Stout visits Nathan’s blog to talk about personalizing your query.

Joanna Penn interviews Orna Ross on the Creative Penn podcast.

Kameron Hurley posts about carrying the weight of the world.

Kate Laity explores Finnish folklore: Louhi, the witch of the north. Folklore Thursday

Nathan Gelgud: how George Orwell’s 1984 almost didn’t get published. Signature

Mary Hines interviews Margaret Atwood on how religion influences utopias and dystopias. CBC’s Tapestry.

Wonder Woman takes over Tipsday:

Charles Pulliam-Moore shares the epic Black Panther teaser trailer. i09

And with that, I shall leave you until Thoughty Thursday!

Be well until then, my friends.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 21-27, 2017

Another week of informal writerly learnings? Get set to open your goodie bag 🙂

K.M. Weiland debunks five misconceptions about writing. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate posits that great comedy is meaningful, and shares four tips to help you make it so.

Kathryn Craft reviews the decade in publishing. Writers in the Storm

Kimberly Brock says, you’re writers, not waiters. Writers in the Storm

Jane Friedman advises on how much you should personalize a query letter.

Elizabeth Huergo pays tribute to C.D. Wright: songs and their landscapes. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb teaches a survey course in time management: writing through our busy lives. Writer Unboxed

Dan Blank says, if you want to be successful, surround yourself with success. Writer Unboxed

Jamie Raintree: let your writing process be your own (and how to discover it).

Bonnie Randall gets into character minutiae and seemingly irrelevant details. Fiction University

Stacy B. Woodson shares her fantastic experience at Malice Domestic 2017. DIY MFA

Jami Gold challenges us to deal with character stereotypes.

Kristen Lamb reveals how shame is at the heart of good fiction.

Will Hindmarch explains how to give great notes a writer can use. Magic Circles

Nina Munteanu gives you the tools you need to make a believable world.

Writer and geologist Alex Acks examines Arakkis, Tatooine, and the science of desert planets. Worldbuilding advice from Tor.com.

Jo Walton looks at genre fiction’s obsession with Belisarius, with a lovely recommendation for Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sarantium novels. Tor.com

Darlene Naponse is a Reveal – Indigenous art award Laureate.

Emily Temple curates some pearls of wisdom—on writing and life—from Jamaica Kincaid in honour of her 68th birthday. Literary Hub

These are old human themes: Margaret Atwood on the enduring power of The Handmaid’s Tale. CBC

James Whitbrook watches the new Game of Thrones trailer. i09

I hope you’re having a lovely week.

Be well until next I blog 🙂

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Ad Astra 2016, day 2: How to get an agent

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

Panellists: Amanda Sun, Mary Fan, Gerald Brandt, Matt Bin

HowToGetAnAgentPanel

AS: Online resources that can help you get an agent: #MSWL, Miss Snark, Query Shark, Guide to Literary Agents blog.

MB: #MSWL is critical these days.

GB: You have to do the research.

MF: There are writers who get an agent and their first novel fails to sell, their second novel fails to sell, but then their third sells big.

MB: The agent has to love your book.

GB: If your query doesn’t match their submission guidelines, it will be rejected.

AS: I used to be an acquiring editor for Room. If a submission didn’t meet the submission requirements, I’d never see it. It would go straight to the spam folder.

Q: How formal does your query have to be? I write YA.

GB: You have to be professional up front. Your second paragraph, where you’re pitching the novel has to have the flavour of your book, but it’s a sales pitch.

MB: The agent wants to understand how your book works and why it will appeal to readers.

MF: 250 words is a good goal length for your query.

Q: At what point do you look for an agent?

GB: As soon as you have a book that’s finished and ready to go out into the world.

MB: Query agents first. If you submit to publishers, agents will have their sales channels limited. Remember, it’s your agent’s job to sell your book to publishers.

GB: Take advantage of pitch sessions at conferences and conventions.

AS: And work on your next book.

GB: The agent is in it with you for the life of your career.

Q: So querying an agent first is better? Is that because editor A might love you book and editor B might hate it?

GB: At Penguin Random House, if one editor rejects the book, all of them do.

MF: That can happen at agencies, too. Agents can move around, too.

Q: What happens when your agent leaves the agency?

GB: In my experience, I was given the option to follow the agent or stay with the agency.

MB: When agents send your novel to publishers, they do so with a different perspective.

MF: I know a writer whose agent is all business. Some agents will want to help edit or develop the work prior to submission to publishers.

MB: Look at the agent’s reputation before you sign with them. You have to be able to work with them.

GB: When an agent is interested in your work, the tables turn.

MF: When you get an offer, don’t be afraid to ask for references.

AS: Don’t be too eager. You don’t have to back down 100% of the time. It’s a partnership.

MF: There are some Schmagents who aren’t legitimate. There should be no reading fee.

GB: The money should flow to the author. Check out Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors.

MB: Querying is the traditional road. Networking at conferences and conventions can help.

GB: But don’t be stalkery. Have your elevator pitch ready, just in case.

AS: Don’t burn your bridges. Publishing is a surprisingly small world.

MF: Maybe we should talk about the structure of a query? It’s three paragraphs. Introduce yourself and your book. The second paragraph is your pitch. Then the third paragraph is about you and your qualifications.

GB: List publication credits if you have any, memberships in any writing organizations. Make sure you look serious.

AS: Your introductory paragraph should focus on the reasons you’re querying this particular agent. Have you met at a con? Do you write books in the same genre as other authors they represent?

Q: Do you use Canadian, or US spelling?

GB: Everything should be in US spelling.

MF: Your comps (comparative novels) should be published in the last three years.

AS: X meets Y is a popular formula to use. Agents can use it to pitch to publishers.

MB: We should also mention online pitch contests like #PitMad. Look them up. Most of them are on Twitter and you have a limited time to pitch directly to agents. Use the hashtag. If an agent likes your 140 character pitch, they’ll respond to you. The rules are all online.

Q: How long should my book be?

MF: It really depends on your genre and category. There are a lot of resources for this online.

Q: Should you query to an agent if you mostly write short fiction?

AS: You can do that without an agent and, in fact, most agents won’t represent short fiction, even for authors they represent for novels.

GB: Collections of short stories are a hard sell.

And that was time.

Next weekend, it will once more be time for a next chapter update (already?).

Be good and write well!

The next chapter: September 2015 update

What can I say about September? First, I’m back on track. Second, I finished drafting Marushka and am well on my way to having a finished draft of Gerod and the Lions.

Marushka ended up at a tidy 73,961 words altogether, or 97% of my 75k goal. As it’s a YA fantasy, I’m quite happy with that.

I’m going to set my sights a little lower with GatL than my original 50k goal. I think 40k should be enough. With revision and editing, It will likely settle somewhere around 45k, which is pretty perfect for a middle grade (MG) novel.

I did some more work on my query letter and am now preparing my next batch. To make up for missing August and September, I’m going to send out in batches of 10 queries for the next two months. I might do this in batches of five every couple of weeks. We’ll see.

I’m also making good progress on my outline for Reality Bomb (working title), which should be complete in time for its drafting in NaNoWriMo 2015. I’m on chapter 21 of 36, so I think I’m in a good place. I should note that as I’m writing this outline in a notebook, by hand, in my own, rather chaotic, cursive, that I’m not counting these words on my spreadsheet.

As far as the short fiction is concerned, I continue to revise and submit, but I haven’t had any positive response recently.

September's progress

Here’s how things broke down in September:

  • The blog has once again taken over as my most productive medium with 6,466 words;
  • In second place is GatL with 5,691 words;
  • Marushka clocked in at 1,776 words;
  • My query rewrites totalled 116 words; and
  • I revised 79 words of short fiction.

Total words generated in September: 14,128.

September's summary

There were only four days where I didn’t record any word count, but those days, I was likely working on my outline.

I’m settling into the writing life again after all my trials and tribulations this year. It feels good. It feels freaking fantastic.

And now, I’m going to try to get a few words in for October 3rd before Doctor Who 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend, all!

And we’ll see you again on Tuesday for more Writerly Goodness.

The Next Chapter