Quick-Tip Tuesday: More Fixes For a Broken Manuscript

In my last Quick-Tip Tuesday post, I wrote about fixing a broken manuscript by setting it aside for a good long time — months — and then reading it through fresh, with an eye toward finding that place where it went off the rails. That was what I did with my work in progress, and it worked amazingly well.

Today I have a couple of additional suggestions for dealing with a broken or recalcitrant manuscript. These grew out of a conversation I had recently with a student I’m mentoring. She is struggling with her manuscript right now, and she’s at that point in the writing process — 60-70% done — that has always given me fits. Seriously, stalling at the 2/3 mark in a book is so much part of my routine that it became a joke of sorts in my household. It has plagued me since my first book […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Fixing a Broken Manuscript

Confession time: There are times when I will find myself ignoring advice that I have given here on Magical Words, or in other teaching situations. For whatever reason — convenience, time, laziness, the sense, right or wrong, that I’ve “outgrown” some of the things I believe writers with less experience ought to do — I will cut a corner here or there. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. For instance, despite what I’ve said here recently about self-editing being most effective when I separate myself from the writing experience in all ways, including reading from a paper copy of my manuscript, I don’t always do this. Paper and ink are expensive. Printing out a book-length manuscript is time consuming. Sometimes — most time, if I’m being honest — I will simply edit on the screen.

But this past week I took my own advice in a couple of […]

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On Writing: Solving Writing Problems with Point of View

I have written about point of view many times before. A couple of years ago I did a whole series of posts on it, and one of my “Creative Intersections” posts earlier this year dealt with POV as it related to worldbuilding.

But here I am again writing about POV, and there is a reason for this. During the course of the summer, I attended several conventions, and I also taught a writers’ workshop up in Calgary. And it seemed that at every turn I would bring one writing issue or another back to POV. It happened so often, that I began to rethink one of my own foundational beliefs about writing. I have said for years that I believe character to be the single most important element of successful storytelling. I realize now that this is not quite true. To my mind, the most important element of storytelling is […]

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A Few Common Writing Problems

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading out to Calgary, Alberta, for ConVersion, a sf/fantasy convention. The organizers have been kind enough to make me their literary guest of honor, and so I’ll be giving talks, perhaps reading from some of my work, and sitting on various panels. (I’ll also get to meet several actors from the Star Trek universe, including Marina Sirtis, John de Lancie, Ethan Phillips, Chase Masterson, and Robert Picardo.) Before the conference begins, I’ll be leading a two-day writers’ workshop. I’ve spent the last week reading manuscripts for the workshop, and that’s what I want to post about today.

As I’ve read, I’ve noticed some recurring issues. I suppose they’re things that all of us struggle with, whether we’re still trying to publish that first piece or completing our ump-teenth novel. And so, here is a brief primer on a few of the more common problems that crop up […]

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Writing — When Things Go Wrong

I’m sitting in the waiting room at my mechanic’s, waiting to find out just what’s wrong with my car and how much it’ll cost me. Thing is — nobody knows anything just yet. Writing can be the same way. Sometimes things break down and nobody knows why.

In all my years in this crazy business, I’ve never once met another author who has not experienced the breakdown of a story at some point. Most of us have many such experiences. For every story I’ve ever published, I’ve got another bunch that never panned out because something in the story fell apart. Maybe the character didn’t turn out as interesting as I had envisioned. Maybe the plot fizzled. Maybe the whole thing was as I imagined, but some intangible quality just didn’t gel leaving the story dry and boring.

As writers, we are the mechanics of the story. We have to […]

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