Quick-Tip Tuesday: Joshua Palmatier on “The Mighty Red Pen”

For today’s Quick-Tip Tuesday post, I welcome Joshua Palmatier, writer and editor par excellence, and a frequent contributor to Magical Words.

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We’re coming up on the release of my second “Ley” novel, THREADING THE NEEDLE, and David B. Coe asked me to stop by and give you all a Quick Tip for Quick Tip Tuesday. So my quick tip for this Tuesday is: How to Cut a Significant Number of Words from Your Manuscript that You Thought Was Done.

Here’s the situation: THREADING THE NEEDLE had already undergone three revisions—my own personal revision, a revision prompted by my agent, and a revision prompted by my editor. That’s generally the last revision before the book hits copy edits and page proofs, where nothing really significant is changing (for the most part), just typos, smoothing out sentences, continuity error corrections, etc. So imagine my surprise when I get an email from […]

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Finishing

Good morning, y’all! I’ve been up to my ears in a story that’s due this week, so I’m presenting a special guest to you today. Shannon Wendtland is one of the writers of the wonderful anthology An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from Mocha Memoirs Press. Today she’s here to talk about her novel Heliodor. Welcome, Shannon!

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I used to be a ‘pantser’, and by that I mean: someone who writes by the seat of their pants. I’d get an idea – one that I thought had legs – and I would write like crazy until my energy petered out. I’d write ten thousand-plus words in a weekend. And then I’d go to work and get back to my daily life and not write again for weeks, maybe even months.

It’s hard to finish a project when you do it in big, […]

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Aaron Rosenberg: Writing Characters Who Aren’t Like You . . . Completely

Everyone always says, “write what you know.” But how many of us are actually heroic men and women, ready to charge into danger to save others? How many of us are dashing swashbucklers, as quick with a quip as with a rapier? How many are hyper-observant detectives, able to notice the most minute details and instantly analyze everyone we meet?

In short, how are we supposed to write what we know and still write engaging, interesting characters?

Then there’s the other side the coin. If every character we write is shy, reclusive, uncomfortable around new situations or strangers, allergic to shellfish, irrationally afraid of green cars and striped umbrellas, and whatever odd little quirks we ourselves have, that’s going to get awfully repetitious—and awfully boring—after the second or third character. But if we’re supposed to write what we know, how can we convincingly write any character who isn’t exactly like […]

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Beth Bernobich: The Time Roads

Once upon a time, I had an idea for a story. It was tentative, as ideas sometimes are. All I had was an image of a young woman reciting prime numbers as her brother listened. The seed for that image was easy to identify—Oliver Sacks’s essay “The Twins,” which describes twin brothers, autistic savants, who recited prime numbers to each other. I chose to make my twins a brother and sister name Síomón and Gwen Madóc, both mathematical geniuses.

That initial scene came to me complete with setting and emotions and full-color video, but I wasn’t sure how the story would unfold. So I wrote as much as I knew, following the brother from the visitation room of the sanitarium (because Gwen is mad, suddenly and mysteriously mad from too many numbers), down to the lobby where a police detective introduces himself and…

…and all of a sudden, I had […]

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Beth Bernobich: Hello, Story

As I said in my last post, not all writing advice works for all writers. We each find the approach that works best for us, and for the project at hand. But! I do believe it’s useful to share our approaches with each other. Maybe we add a new technique to our writer toolkit. Maybe we try out this other technique and learn it doesn’t work for us.

So in the spirit of sharing, here is how I turn my ideas into stories.

Ideas. Those wispy scraps of “what if” that float through our brains. Most of my ideas are fragile things that never survive discovery. That death of the story can be quick, as quick as me noticing the idea, only to have it fade into nothing. Or I might jot down a few notes about a possible story, to find the story feels dead in my imagination. But […]

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Beth Bernobich: Writing Advice, the Meta Post

As you know, Bob, there is no shortage of writing advice in the world—advice about where to start your story, how to build a plausible world, or how to create compelling characters. There’s even advice about the process of writing itself. Should you write an outline first? Is it necessary to write the plot in sequence? When should you revise your work, and how, and how many times?

This is both a wonderful and a dangerous thing.

And yet, here I am, offering even more advice. What’s up with this?

Think of this as meta advice: how to approach the advice you come across. Here goes…

First rule: There are no rules, only guidelines.

Someone once told me you can’t set fantasy in the modern world. “Truefact!” they said. “Nonsense,” I replied.

Lots of rules are nothing more than preconceptions or misconceptions. Fantasy can take place in the past, present, […]

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Aaron Rosenberg: Ending Without Closing

Endings are hard. We say that a lot, and hear it a lot, because it’s true. Most of us, when we write, choose a story to work on because we’ve had some brilliant vision of the lead character doing something, or have suddenly been overwhelmed by that character’s voice, or just have this great idea of “hey, what if . . . ?” But that initial impulse, that creative spark, doesn’t usually extend to how the story ends. We all know the famous story of J. Michael Straczynski with Babylon 5, right? He sat down with the producers to talk about the idea of doing that TV series and mentioned that he had already envisioned a five-year arc. One of the producers jokingly asked, “Okay, how does it end?” And JMS told them. Because he already had most of the major beats mapped out in his head, including the very […]

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