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Paradox: Limitations Drive Creativity

If I ask you to tell me a story, or to draw me a picture, what’s your first reaction? If you’re like most people, it’s another question: “About what?” Few things are as intimidating as a blank sheet of paper. All the hopes, fears, dreams, tragedies, climaxes, and denouements you plan to spill forth in lyrical and dazzling prose … where, oh where, to begin? That’s one reason prompts are such powerful, proven...

Words Not Pages

I frequently hear from writers who are interested in a manuscript review or editing services, or who want to pitch an agent or publisher, and they tell me their book is 200 or 425 or howevermany pages long. When I’m feeling indulgent and patient, I’ll spend some time explaining why I don’t care how many pages their manuscript is – and why they shouldn’t, either. What counts is the number of words in the manuscript,...

Don’t Envy – Improve

A few years ago, when I finished Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin while doing the eleventythousandth revision of my own novel manuscript, I closed her book and looked at mine and thought, “Why bother?” The bother is that I’ve got my own story to tell. It’s not Atwood’s story, or Melville’s or Twain’s, or even yours. You’ve got your own story, too. Because it’s your story, the issue isn’t whether you write as...

Rube Tube

Author William Gibson has an essay on his web site in which he contemplates becoming “exactly the sort of introverted, hyper-bookish boy you’ll find in the biographies of most American science fiction writers … dreaming of one day becoming a writer myself.” It’s all interesting, even if you’re not familiar with his work, and he concludes with this compelling insight: “I...

Interesting Times and Heavy Lifting

A college friend who is an avid reader and married to another college friend and avid writer sent this story to me with this note: “Interesting times ahead.” Big Six publishers decline to renew contract with Amazon over unfavorable terms He, several friends, and I engaged in some commentary on the article. Here’s an edited/condensed version of my thoughts: Isn’t that an old Chinese curse – interesting times?...

The 99/1 Rule, WOM, and Your Best Effort

One of my Facebook groups is discussing The Red Pen of Doom’s article “The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books.” The author, @speechwriterguy, posits an important point: “Twitter isn’t built to sell books. Or anything else.” I agree. His post, which is long, analyzes a range of variables in terms of mass media, name recognition, numbers of followers, etc., and arrives at a very challenging conclusion: “The new...

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