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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,...

Killing clichés

One rule writers learn early is to kill clichés. To prove the point, I will define my terms with a tired trope of the copywriter: cli·ché  /klēˈSHā/ Noun: A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought. A very predictable or unoriginal thing or person. If anyone asks why writers should eliminate clichés from their work, the answer is usually brief, to the point, and wrong:...

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...

Story Masters and Hammer Heads

A couple of years ago, I spent a valuable weekend at a writing workshop, Story Masters, with three terrific authors who are also outstanding teachers: James Scott Bell is a novelist and Writer’s Digest favorite. Donald Maass is a literary agent and author of several outstanding craft books. Christopher Vogler is a story consultant and Hollywood icon for his work interpreting, among other things, Joseph Campbell’s...

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...

10,000 Hours

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he details the concept of the 10,000-hour rule. That’s a reasonably well-accepted theory that to become thoroughly proficient at something, a person needs to practice for about 10,000 hours. Gladwell’s most famous examples include the Beatles and Bill Gates. Prodigies — the exceptions who prove the rule — are popularly known. However, they...

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