Upcoming Series: How to Be a Better Fiction Writer

chapterone.jpgRecently, James brought something to my attention: We hardly ever address fiction writing on our blog. That’s a shame, because storytellers are a group of people with unique, distinct needs and questions. (They’re also interesting people.)

So we’re going to do something about it.

We’re writing a phenomenal series of posts specifically aimed at all the fiction writers and novelists out there. Twice a week, we’ll share what we know about writing a kick-ass novel – so that you can write one.

Writing a novel can be very lonely work. You have your heart and soul poured into one piece of work. Your story isn’t spread around, it isn’t read often (if at all) and it most likely resides only on your computer. A novel is something that writers tend to hide and work on all alone.

We know. We have our own novel in the works, and most of it is material that only James and I have seen. It’s not a secret – but at the same time, writing a novel is extremely secretive work.

It’s very fulfilling to write a story, because it captures the imagination in one of its purest forms by putting the mind to paper. Scenes, settings and characters conceived in our thoughts are brought to life on paper until they almost breathe.

A good novel has readers fall in love with characters, agonize over dilemmas and get caught up in the conflict. A good novel brings us to another world, and it makes us regret the last page that signals the end.

Get it right, and your novel becomes a page-turner people can’t put down. Get it wrong, and – unfortunately – your novel can put people straight to sleep.

Storytelling is an intricate art. Writing a novel takes good skills, talent, proper planning, goals and the establishment of many elements – and it takes the ability to blend it all together to capture your audience.

James and I have decided to take you on an adventure. A few years back, we discovered an excellent way to develop our fiction writing skills to their fullest in a way that seizes everyone’s attention. We want to teach you to be better fiction writers, and we want you to join us on the journey.

But not just any journey. We’re developing a series on fiction writing and storytelling that will make you a better writer – by learning how to play a game.

Sounds interesting? Good. It will be.

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. Justin Dupre says:

    I’ll be looking forward to this post! I have to write a 10 page story for my creative writing course in one month, and it feels like it will take 10 years at the pace I am going. I just can’t get a story I like in my head.

    Justin Dupre

    Justin Dupre’s last blog post..A Short Series – Blog Interviews – Laying Out Your Email

  2. @ Justin – Then this series should help. My tip? Stop thinking of a story. Start thinking of who is in your story. Pick just one character, and start learning that person. The story will come after.

  3. Three words – BRING IT ON! I can’t wait! I’m excited to read what you have to say. And let me throw a topic at ya – Fear and Proscrastination! I know that’s what’s holding back my progress! 🙂

  4. @ Christie – Procrastination… ha! Don’t I know that one. Let me ask you, though: Fear of… ?

  5. @ James: Failure? Success? Both? For me, I think mainly fear that if I suck there’s a long-held dream going down the drain…

  6. @ Christie – Harry’s your man for that area, definitely. You should check out his series on the 7 Deadly Fears of Writing that he wrote on our old blog. Many readers said it was very helpful.

    And think of it this way – Your dreams never go down the drain unless you pull the plug…

  7. @Justin: I bet you could write that story in 10 minutes. Don’t think about it. Just sit down and start writing, it doesn’t matter what you put, so long as you get your brain flowing. You might end up chucking the whole thing, but you might also find your idea in the brainstorm.

    James has a good point too. Most of my stories started with a single character concept and the story got built around that.

    @Christie: Definitely read the 7 Deadly Fears series.

  8. Count me in! Bring it on. 🙂 I’ve got a novel that’s been harassing the daylights out of me for two months now to write it down.

  9. @Kat: I can see this is going to get a lot of people fired up and ready to dive back into their creative projects. Very cool.

  10. Swizeeet! Right up my alley.

    What’s your favorite fiction read? Both of ya.

    Is it OK if I refer to you two as Hames or Jarry?

    If I had to choose a favorite it would be “Elric of Melnibone.”

    But I love everything by Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin.

    Jay F.H.’s last blog post..Why This Post is Ugly and Won’t Attract Readers

  11. @ Jay – You can call us anything you like. We both answer 🙂 A quick favorite becoming popular is, “Yo. Men.”

    Favorite fiction… god, where do I start? Anne Bishop is ruling my world right now. Melanie Rawn is a close second. David Eddings rocks. Anne McCaffrey is a favorite, too. Big fantasy fan here. And nothing heavy – if it’s LITERATURE then it’s not on my bookshelves. Reading should be fun, not a chore 🙂

    I also love, love, love Diana Gabaldon (yes, I know, it’s chick lit, shaddap) and Sara Donati.

    I think everyone is going to have a very good time with this series (long thought it will be!) and… I think everyone is going to have a fantastic time with the spin that we have brewing 🙂

  12. Outlander fan huh. Good stuff. I read Melanie Rawn a loooong time ago and completely forgot about her. But I loved the Dragon Prince. Have to check her out again.

    Can’t wait guys. :o)

  13. Gabaldon has this fantastic ability to breathe life into her characters until you fall in love with each one, regardless of gender. She’s also an interesting writer unafraid to take chances with her material, and I respect that highly.

    Rawn is the same for living characters. Writers who can do that and cut out the self-indulgent 12 page descriptions to put real people in my mind blow me away.

    Since I have the fiction writers attention, I’m wondering how many of you post your material on blogs or in forums?

  14. You know, I’ve found that listening to, rather than reading, LITERATURE can be SO much better. I just finished listening to the audiobook version of “The Road,” and it was fantastic. No way in hell I could have read it though.

  15. ooh, looking forward to it!

    (Are you going to write a post about writing teaser posts for those um…slow days? That gives me an idea — I should write a teaser post about writing teaser posts. Or something.)

    Nez’s last blog post..Are You Living a Perfect Life?

  16. That’s awesome! I’m currently working on writing my third novel and revising my second, but I have a hard time focusing on writing it when I have “work” to do. A series like this is probably just what I need to get back in the groove.

    Joshua Clanton – Design for the WEB’s last blog post..Linklist:Building Business, Finding Business, Geometry, and Audacity

  17. I’ve never tried listening to a book. I’ve listened to courses, and I notice that I have an extremely hard time focusing. It’s like I’d have to wear a blindfold to listen, actually. The odd thing is that when I read, people can talk to me and I don’t hear them. Same when I work on the computer.

    Maybe I’ll try that, though, listening to LITERATURE in the dark. Might be a neat experience. Sounds kinda sexy 😉

  18. I have way too many things on my plate right now to dedicate time to writing fiction…blasphemous I know, but eventually I plan on posting online. As a way to help promote a future navel.

  19. As well as promoting my Navel, I will also be promoting my Novel (which, hopefully will be edited better than my comments)

  20. Yes, I think you did navel already… and did rather well, from what it seems, besides the fact that you lost a love interest. I couldn’t help but wonder whether you quit navel-promotion or whether the money was just too good?

  21. Ha! I gave it up for the lofty dreams of becoming an internet sensation with my pants still around my waist. It was HARD to give UP but I finally nipped that one in the butt…uh…bud.

  22. @Jay: Favorite all time author is Terry Pratchett. I love his wit and I’m glad he’s a prolific writer because I can’t get enough of him. I’d like to read more Gaiman too, ever since I read “Good Omens” he co-authored with Pratchett. Gabaldon and Rawn are at the top of my list too, and Ann Bishop is quickly gaining ground.

    I don’t enjoy listening to books on audio. It’s harder for me to absorb what I’m being told. I’m a very visual person. Maybe that’s why I prefer email over phones. Verbal directions confuse the hell out of me unless someone is showing me what they’re doing while they’re explaining it.

    You know, I completely missed the “future navel” and wondered how the hell you guys got on that.

  23. Yay! I haven’t been able to write much fiction lately, but I think I’ll start up again.

    As far as fiction favorites, I love LITERATURE. Actually, the only fiction I have with me at school is the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes – stories, novels, the whole shibang.

    RLD: Taekwondo Happiness’s last blog post..Invincibility

  24. @ everyone who has trouble with focus – like me!

    Procrastination… the story killer…

    Something I’ve found that works for me, even though it has been said a million times on other sites, is the myraid of distraction blocking writing software, such as Q10 http://www.baara.com/q10/ or Dark Room http://they.misled.us/dark-room on Windows, or WriteRoom http://hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom on the Mac. Full screen plain text on black really helps me.

    Or for more advanced software that could help with the layout etc., you could try Liquid Story Binder XE http://www.blackobelisksoftware.com/ on Windows, or Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html on the Mac. These also have full screen modes but are much more powerful.

    I have used all of these myself, and each offers something unique.

    But, you could also use Notepad, MS Word, or a pen & paper. I think the key is just to form a habit and start writing.

    As James & Harry say above, check out some of the things they have written on motivation. It really does work.

    @ the Men With Pens – I’m looking forward to this series very much. Even though I’m not currently writing fiction, this may change.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  25. PS – I don’t work for any of those software companies. I just think they are cool.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  26. Aw crap, I didn’t scare everyone away with that “geek spew”, did I?

    (honestly, I don’t work for any of those companies!!!)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  27. On second thought, I guess it wasn’t me. Everyone’s either been working (not ME, obviously…), or they’re over at Naomi’s place today.

    Well, I’m at home now, so I don’t feel guilty about hanging out here.

    Not that it stopped me today at work… 😉

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  28. @Brett: I’m workin’ dude! *chuckles* Go check your email, I sent you something earlier.

  29. @ Brett – Interestingly enough, I didn’t get one bloody notification of any of your comments, and no wonder you were out here talking to the walls. There are days when I curse technology. Bastard. See? Like that.

    I couldn’t work on a black background for the life of me. Black on white, all the way. I’ve heard good things about Scrivener and have never heard of the rest, which means I’ll have to go and investigate to see how my life will be improved.

    Also, feel free to crash, have a beer, hang out… Bienvenue chez moi, mon ami.

  30. My notifications have been sketchy too. Today I didn’t get one notification at all that RDL posted a comment.

  31. @ Harry – heh heh, I had seen that earlier but wanted to save the “serious stuff” for when I left work. Plus I had a few tabs about blog themes open on Firefox at home, so I figured I’d wait.

    @ James – yes, technology is both a blessing and a curse simultaneously. My love for it, for the instant communication, ability to work anywhere, makes me hunger to be able to work at home, rather than have to punch a hole through the company firewall to check my Gmail (seriously, I have to do that…)

    To quote you: “bastard.”

    As far as I know, all of those programs allow you to adjust the background and the text colour. Some allow you to set a transparency as well (although that sort of defeats the purpose for me, but some may like it). I use LSBXE or Scrivener for planning stuff (or sometimes good old pen & paper), and mostly Q10 for the writing. But sometimes Dark Room or WriteRoom. Depends on the mood… 🙂

    Thanks for the offer. I’m going to go get a beer – want one?

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  32. Two hours later, still no notice of your comment… Yes. Beer please.

  33. Weird. Must be a ghost in the machine or something.

    (Damn, now I’ll have to go listen to The Police. Man, I rediscovered them with a good set of headphones and CD quality music, wow the 80’s sucked on cassette.)

    I have some Steinlager in the cooler aka the back porch, it’s pretty good stuff… 🙂

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  34. That’s odd, I got James’ post notification, but not one from Brett.

  35. And I just got yours, but not Brett’s…

    Okay, you broke my site, dude. What. Is this ransom situation? You want money?

  36. You guys are so creative. I am looking forward to reading more – now I really feel like I’m at home. I have one novel under my belt, and have approximately 100 pages left on my second. Maybe we can all keep eachother going on our novels? I will share any tips I know of to help others. Starting…Now! Okay, I promise to write 2 pages tomorrow. Promise. Does anyone know any good agents?

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..The Long Haul

  37. @Ellen: You make me laugh. As it is said, so let it be written! We don’t know any good agents, we haven’t hit that stage yet.

  38. @ Ellen – Good. We went all business on y’all and forgot that this place is about writing – which means fiction, too. As for agents, that’s a good question. Any takers?

    @ Everyone – Askimet is being strangely active today. My apologies for any comments snagged in its depths. They’ve been released now and are free to spread havoc on our blog. The good comments, that is!

  39. Glad I could be of humorous service. It’s good to start thinking of agents now – if you decide to go that route. Or publishers. I have hit at least 70-80 agents with my last book, and now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t go the publisher route. Well, night everyone. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

    Ellen Wilson’s last blog post..The Long Haul

  40. @Harry & James,

    MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! A case of the finest Quebec liquor, of course! That will set you free…

    Or – maybe it is the evil spawn of Windows Vista and Firefox, perhaps those two should never be mixed for fear of breaking cool web sites.

    (Perhaps Windows Vista shouldn’t be mixed with anything…)

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  41. Nice. I’ll be looking forward to it. Years ago I wrote a (hand covering my eyes) Star Trek novel. Full 30+ chapters with all new characters. I’m not a fanatic but love the show and LOVE science fiction (in case you haven’t seen, an area of my website is named “The Neptune Lounge” where I talk about astronomy).

    I finished it but stopped half way through the editing process. Shame.

    Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to the posts. Oh and . . . did someone say beer? Count me in, whatever it is.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Create Yourself A Shortcut – How To E-Mail, Blog, and Text On The Go!

  42. So, John, how many times have you been to the Star Trek Experience?

    You should go back and finish editing that book, sounds like you miss it.

  43. Judging from the comments, it sounds like you’ve hit a hot topic for a lot of writers (and one that I don’t see discussed online very often). Keep up the good work!

    Laura’s last blog post..Does Your Blog Have the “Wow” Factor That It Needs?

  44. Only been there twice and that was years ago. The second time was pretty cool, though. I had some connections and got in to see the premiere of Insurrection and afterwards got to hang out with the cast over at the Star Trek Experience.

    I would love to get back to writing. I use to write short stories about the old west. I loved Bill Hickok. But at this moment in my life, there are other things I’m doing – but maybe one day.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..Create Yourself A Shortcut – How To E-Mail, Blog, and Text On The Go!

  45. Oooh, John… Stay tuned for Friday’s post. If there’s one thing I think people cut themselves off with, it’s…

    “One day.”

  46. Make that “one day”, today.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..farmer, or fisherman?

  47. Hi – I’m looking forward to this too.

    My site is similar – I’m a copywriter too but I’m planning a series of 7 posts about writing in general – they will apply equally to fiction writers.

    Take a look!

    Leif Kendall’s last blog post..Quick Copywriting Tip #1

  48. Well, about as similar as apples and bananas, but yes, we both seem to be writing about writing 🙂 Good to have you around, Leif; welcome to the club.

  49. Hi James,
    I am not from your stream as I work for a writing firm but different from yours. Its a ads writing firm. I just came to your post by surfing and found your tips interesting. You are good. I’ll try to visit regularly to your blogs.


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