Friday, September 30, 2011

Writing Tips

The first tip is that readers expect books to be exhaustive on their subjects. That doesn’t mean they want the books to be long — it means that they expect that you will cover all the basic ground that needs to be covered to understand the subject, even if they know some of it already. This piece of advice may or may not be relevant to your subject. In the book world, people want to see you mention the stuff they already know, at least in passing (or to knock it down)– otherwise, how can it claim to be a book on the subject? It’s worth taking that point of view seriously.

This is a basic piece of advice, but it can’t be overstated when you’re trying to go from magazine-length to book-length writing: hone your outline and then cling to it as a lifeline. You can adjust it in mid-stream, but don’t try to just write your way into a better structure: think about the right structure and then write to it. Your outline will get you through those periods when you can’t possibly imagining ever finishing the damn thing — at those times, your outline will let you see it as a sequence of manageable 1,000 word sections.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Didactic: Everyone knows didactic literature, even if they don’t know the fancy term. It takes on an academic tone meant to educate, carrying with it connotations of heavy-handedness.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

5 Ways to Evaluate Your Writing Group

5 Ways to Evaluate Your Writing Group
by Mark Nichol

The writing group you started three or six months ago is still going, but there’s something not quite right about it. It’s time to step back and evaluate it:

1. Attendance

Are the charter members all still attending? Or, if one or more people have dropped out, was it mutually beneficial for them to do so, or do you wish they had continued to participate? If the latter is true, and you haven’t already done so, send them a note asking for their frank appraisal, assuring them that you want the truth so that you can apply their response to improving the group. They might have simply found they lacked the time or the motivation, or they might have had a personality clash with someone else in the group or a problem with the meeting format.

If one or more people is regularly tardy or absent, ask them why. You won’t know whether you can help them if you don’t know the reason they aren’t on time or present all the time. It might be as simple as needing more time at home after work before heading to the meeting, or they might just be hesitating about quitting.

2. Skill

Are the skill levels of the members basically on par? Not everyone needs at exactly the same place in terms of facility with writing, but it helps to have an only slightly divergent range. An especially skilled group member might make others feel inadequate, and someone who is noticeably deficient in talent may be dragging the group down.

You will likely feel uncomfortable about approaching either type of outlier, but the more skilled writer will probably take it as a compliment if you suggest that they seek a writing group with higher collective abilities and may be glad to have “permission” to do so. For the person not quite up to the group’s level, it may take no-punches-pulled criticism — respectful but candid — to prompt them to look for a group more suited to their level of development.

3. Workload

Are group members keeping up with the workload? If members routinely come to group meetings unprepared — lacking either a writing sample for others to critique or completed evaluations of others’ passages — perhaps the amount of preparation required is excessive.

Consider reducing the frequency of meetings or the length of submissions, or mix up the way submissions are presented: If group members usually email their pieces for others to review and critique before the next meeting, alternate this approach with cold critiques (responses to writing samples that have just been distributed at that meeting).

Alternatively, have members submit samples at every other meeting rather than each time, or skip critique meetings in place of tutorials (everybody presents a fifteen-minute lesson about character, plot, narrative structure, or some other element).

4. Development

Do group members feel that the writing group is helping them develop as writers? Set aside part or all of a meeting to discuss how everyone feels about their progress. Are other members too timid about providing feedback, so that one or more people feel that they aren’t getting anything out of the critiquing sessions?

Is criticism writer centered rather than writing centered? Critiques that focus on the author rather than on the writing samples not only hinder development but may also make members feel uncomfortable, which may also be the cause of absentees or dropouts. If you haven’t yet done so, model constructive comments that are specific and that respond to the piece, not the person.

5. Feedback

External feedback, that is. At three months after the group’s launch, this step will likely be premature, but for a group that’s met for six months or more, it might be time to step up to the plate. Talk everyone in the group to committing to submitting: With a given period, everyone must send an article or poem or short story to a certain number of publications or writing competitions for consideration.

That’s certainly one way to evaluate a writing group. If one or more people get a prize or get published, also-rans might feel resentment, but try to forestall any bad feelings by suggesting ahead of time that if anyone hits the jackpot, it means everybody has the potential to do so.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What’s your secret?

What’s your secret?

Maybe you have some uncommon way of dealing with an everyday problem, or you’ve developed a faster or cheaper way of doing something. Either way, you know something most other people don’t know. In fact, as an expert in your niche, you probably have quite a few secrets, but you may not think of them like that.

Strangely, in the case of article writing, the “secrets” you share are the ones that define you the most.

Your secrets are the unique concepts and facts that you have about your niche. You share some of your best secrets every once in a while in articles. Of course, you save some of those secrets to be shared elsewhere, but article writing is a great avenue to share your expertise.

This article template is a great way to share those secrets in a succinct, guided way.

Just follow these steps:

·         Choose a Secret – Whatever you choose needs to be something that the general population doesn’t know already. It could be a startling fact or little-known process that you’re ready and willing to uncover.

·         Write a Captivating Title – Don’t give away your secret in the title. Use this part of the article to build interest in the topic, but don’t over-hype the secret. If you exaggerate the secret in the title and under-deliver, readers will notice.

·         Share the Secret – In the introductory paragraphs, share the secret and explain it as well as you can. If you’re outlining a secret recipe or step-by-step process, use an ordered list to organize the steps. If your secret is better told in paragraphs, take that route.

·         Explain Why It’s Not Widely-Known – Up until this point, your secret has been just that – a secret. Think about why it’s such a special piece of information or why it hasn’t become common knowledge and share your thoughts.

·         Tell Why You’re Sharing It – Whether you’re just in the mood to help people out or you want to announce a better/faster/cheaper solution to everyday problems, explain to your readers why you’ve decided to share the secret.

·         Recap the Secret – Now that the secret is out, recap what it is, what it means and why you’re sharing it in the conclusion of the article. Highlight the main points and summarize to conclude the article.

This secret-sharing article template is a great way to connect with your readers on a new, more personal level. Feel free to play with less formal writing when working with this template. Some authors pretend that they’re actually “whispering” the secret in their writing. That can be a different way of showing your lighter side as a writer.

Use this article template today to boost your credibility and reputation as an author with one-of-a-kind secrets about your niche.

Have you ever written an article based on one of your secrets? Leave a comment to share your experiences.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Literary Terms You Should Know

Denouement: The denouement occurs shortly after a story’s climax, but before its end. This serves to wrap up any dangly bits the author wishes to resolve.