Category Archives: Writing

Tripping Over Tropes, Part One: Romance

“What kind of books do you write?”

I’ve always resisted attempts to fence me in—not a good trait in a writer who wants to sell books.

I want to write, and read, stories of adventure, love, domesticity, revenge, creative self-fulfillment, murder, introspection, friendship, and vanquishing evil. The thread running through my favorite stories is the sympathetic, realistic protagonist who defies expectations to make a fresh start.

Wise writing mentors tell us: You’ve got to know whom you’re writing for and what sort of book experience she wants. You’ve got to know which shelf your book is going to land on. Romance readers expect certain things, as do mystery fans, women’s fiction fans, etc.

Who doesn’t love a good love story? Most books I’ve loved have a strong romantic element woven into the plot. And I love romance’s optimism—you know there’s a happy ever after coming, no matter how bad things get for our heroine. Life outside the book covers (especially politics) provides plenty of doom and gloom.

But my recent efforts to read good romance novels have led to a big pile of unfinished books. I like my characters believable, my heroines smart and brave. So far, I’ve found very few women like that between the covers of romance novels. Of course, an interesting heroine will have insecurities and past failures–everyone does–but she won’t be a quivering puddle of self-doubt.

I also love steamy sex scenes—in the context of a relationship, of course—but most of the sex scenes I’ve read so far sound like they were written by guys, or by women who’ve never had an actual orgasm. And romance tales about instant love? She sees him across the room and melts into a quivering puddle of desire and love, knowing he’s the one and only for her, forever and ever, amen. Yeah—that doesn’t happen. That level of love comes only after a slow build-up of getting to know the guy—and that build-up is what I want to read/write.

Oh, and domineering males? Can’t stand ‘em. I’ve never longed for some handsome guy to show up and boss me around. What’s up with that? I don’t care if he’s a bazillionaire—don’t tell me what to do, Bud! So much for the alpha hero.

And inexperienced, sweet young things? Meh. In real life, that rosy first kiss of maidenhood seldom results in lasting love. I’d like to read about mature women finding love after the first blush of youth.

So perhaps I’m not cut out to write romance fiction. Except all my daydreams, all those elaborate tales I’ve spun since I was a wee maid, have all centered around falling in love. That sort of story is calling to me. I guess I’ll keep writing them, and hope there are readers out there who want to read about love that could actually happen.

Can you recommend a trope-defying, believable romance novel?

An At-Home Writer’s Retreat

What’s an introvert to do?

I’m not a mole-woman who never emerges from her writing cave, but I do need a hefty portion of alone time every day for my writing, as well as solitary time just to process my thoughts and feeling and settle into my own rhythm–not to mention checking social media for cute puppy memes.

Whereas hubs, whom I love to the moon and back, needs more social contact, both from me and from others. He’s supportive of my writing, but living with a partner means I have to leave my office from time to time—often just when the writing’s flowing. And while errands and other projects give us the chance to reconnect, they often end with me grumbling about the writing time I’ve missed.

Enter the golf trip! Last week, D met two old friends for a week of golfing and male bonding, leaving me alone at home to write, write, write. It was marvelous! I had a few social meetups with friends, but otherwise kept my own company for eight days. Never have I been so productive!

I spent most of the week at my desk, wearing exercise clothes, typing away madly. When my head began to buzz and my body to ache from too much sitting, I’d go for a walk, then pour another cup of coffee and mount a fresh attack.

In that time, I finished reading Lisa Cron’s Story Genius and doing the exercises therein for half-finished mystery novel. What a revelation! If, like mine, your stories are overpopulated with characters and subplots, if your pacing drags, I highly recommend her techniques. It took me about three weeks to work through all these exercises, but the story is now so much more intense, so much tighter.

Sure, if money were not a concern I’d go find a wind-swept coastal cabin to hole up and write for a week, but I wouldn’t have been any more productive, any more at peace. A week alone at home was all I needed to clean out my pipes, rebalance my attitude, and shut down my grumbling. Not to mention how glad I am to see Hubs again.

Vive la staycation!

Never give up! Never surrender!

June is truly bustin’ out all over. (Bonus points if you can name that musical) Here in Tacoma, Washington, we’re enjoying intermittent spurts of lovely summer weather, punctuated by bouts of drizzle.

Tacoma’s Chinese Reconciliation Park

Once again, we welcome a new month with a blog hop from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. Here’s their mission statement and a link, should you care to join the conversation. Please do!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Thank you to this month’s co-hosts, JH Moncrieff, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Jen Chandler, Megan Morgan, and Heather Gardner!

June 7th IWSG Day Question: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing? My answer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fdcIwHKd_s

Seriously, I’ve never given up writing, though I have put a project on the back burner when my daily life became overstuffed with job/family demands. Speaking of…

In a recent online discussion over at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, (another fine group I highly recommend to writers in that genre), some wise writer said, “We’re all just working out our own stuff.”

So, I have this protagonist named Lola. She’s fifty-five, and is my fictional role model. At least, that’s how she began. But a gleaming, perfect role model isn’t as interesting to read about as someone with problems—lots of relatable, complicated problems, with roots deep in her past.

I’ve recently worked my way through Lisa Cron’s game-changing craft book Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel. Her main point: Story is not about what happens, it’ about what those events mean to the protagonist, and how they cause her to change.

I’m using Cron’s techniques to rework a half-completed novel, and it’s coming together in ways that have eluded me until now. I can now see a steady march of cause and effect based on Lola’s inner conflict in the story. Huzzah!

But in digging into Lola’s past and her mistaken beliefs, I’m seeing unsettling parallels to my own, ahem, issues. Up until now, I’ve believed that Lola was connected to me only by a few superficial details: hair shade, retired teacher, love of belly dancing, artistic pursuits. But in creating a more fleshed-out inner conflict for her, I’m having epiphany after epiphany.

For example: Lola has not spent as much time as she’d like on her artistic pursuits, and she’s blamed the demands of job and family. Of course, this leads to resentment about those demands. Zounds, that’s me!

Writing is therapeutic, but until this experience I’ve thought of that truth mostly in terms of writing in a journal, or creative non-fiction. It turns out that I’ve actually been processing lots of my own internal conflicts via my fiction.

Well, duh! I don’t call myself a late-blooming rose for nothing. Do you see reflections of yourself in your fictional characters?

 

I love a fresh start.

Summertime on the Puget Sound

We’ve had a cold, soggy spring in Tacoma. Most days, the sky and the Puget Sound have been a uniform shade of gray. At long last, the springtime sun flirts with us from behind the clouds, bringing promise of a new beginning.

The other day, I was reading a social media conversation among writers about fear of the blank page. Many find it hard to begin a new project, intimidated by all that white space. Me, I love a clean slate, a fresh start, a wide-open vista of endless possibilities. I love to sit down at my computer, or outdoors with my notebook, and just blather forth. Blah, blah, blah! Natter natter natter! Etc., and so forth, and so on!

I love that part.

Imagining scenes and characters and writing them down is easy and fun—for me, anyway. The hard part is cleaning it up and making sense of it all.

Right now, I’m working my way through the craft book that has my writer friends all a-twitter: Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. My half-finished mystery story needs a good clean-up, afflicted as it is with my usual slow-paced start, over-abundance of characters and side-plots, and protagonistic pontifications. So far, I’m finding Cron’s approach very helpful, like a stern but sympathetic teacher who raps her ruler on my desk every time she sees my attention start to wander.

Another fresh start that’s beckoning is summer break. My giddy anticipation of the end of the school year is more than a bit ridiculous, considering that I teach only five hours per week. But still—the promise of summer glimmers on the horizon: warm, lazy, self-directed days, unimpeded by commuting or lesson plans.

And I’ve decided not to accept any teaching jobs next year, having remembered the hard way how much prep time goes into each lesson taught. I only have so much focus and energy per day, and far too much of it has been spent on finding or creating materials for French instruction. Hats off to elementary and preschool teachers. Having stood briefly in your shoes, I have more respect than ever for the sheer amount of work you do to keep those little ones excited about learning. Y’all must be mainlining caffeine to do that all day long.

This detour back into teaching has sharpened my awareness of how much I enjoy writing. If I ever hope to publish my work, and I do, I need to devote my high-energy time to that pursuit. Lesson learned.

So, here’s to a new season and a fresh start.

Researching for Fiction Writers

Happy May to all. Are the growing light and warmth lifting your spirits? I hope you’re finding new energy and inspiration for your creative endeavors.

I’m back at my desk after a month-long road trip. One benefit of a break from the same-old-same-old is an appreciation of the passage of time. Unlike my usual routine, days spent exploring new places don’t blend together in a blur. And for once, I don’t feel like I’ve just finished writing last month’s IWSG blog post.

In case you’re new to this discussion, the Insecure Writers’ Support Group hosts a first-Wednesday blog hop for writers. IWSG is a great resource for writers of all types. I’ve really enjoyed meeting and learning from other scribblers via this blog exchange. Give them a look here and join the conversation: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/

This month’s question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Well, I’ve spent lots of time learning about poisons and historical erotic art. No, I didn’t use them both in the same story, but perhaps I should. Hmm…

So far, my stories all have contemporary settings, so I really don’t spend much time researching places and times. My settings are fictional, though based loosely on favorite towns. This gives me the freedom to plop down the people and places I need in a charming setting that becomes a character which both comforts and challenges my protagonist.

Poulsbo, Washington, another source of inspiration for my fictional settings.

Two of my as-yet-unpublished novels take place in a fictional Northern California town that blends  details from Half Moon Bay and Pleasanton in California, as well as Port Townsend, Enumclaw and Edmonds in Washington, and a dozen other charming, small-town Main Streets I’ve visited. You know the type: a few restaurants, some art galleries, a funky clothing boutique or two and, a tavern, a wine bar and, of course, a marvelous bookshop. The town is populated by local artists, artisans, entrepreneurs, and other colorful, sometimes prickly characters. It’s just the kind of place I’d like to live—but it works out much better in fiction.

In real life, small towns like that can be closed-up and closed-minded, not very welcoming to newcomers, and full of petty jealousies and interpersonal drama. People in a larger town, like the one I inhabit in real life, are less interested in poking their noses into others’ business. I like that freedom, as well as the access I have to lots of cultural events and beautiful places to walk.

But wouldn’t it be nice to live in a close-knit, funky, artists’ colony on the coast? Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a close-knit community that feels like family?

This month’s question has tickled my curiosity. I think I’ll make a point of visiting more charming little towns this summer—as research, mind you.

Is that tax-deductible?

So, when can I read your book? Also, two new books for you.

The first Wednesday of the month brings our monthly question from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. IWSG is a great resource for all us scribblers, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting other writers via this blog exchange. Give them a look here and join the conversation: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

This month’s question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Um, yeah. About that…

There comes a time when an as-yet-unpublished writer starts to wince when asked “What have you published?”

Nothing, okay? I’m still flogging the query circuit, submitting to competitions, tweeting like a sparrow, and hoping for a bite. I’m cheered by tales from traditionally published writers who received fifty, a hundred, even more rejections before getting that golden ticket.

And I’m starting to educate myself about self-publishing. The steamy romance novel I’m working on? If I don’t get a publisher for that one within six months of completion, I will self-publish. So there. But I won’t be one of those self-published writers who flings a half-baked, poorly edited story out into Kindle Land, so that means beta readers, and editor, and more time…

But it takes so long! And I was feeling okay about that, continuing to plug away, a thousand words or more each day, until, over the weekend, I received a text from a critique group member whose work I enjoy and admire: “Do you have a book out?” We’d talked about his previous book publicity events, and discussed doing one together. That was several months ago. At our last meeting, he showed me the pre-order page on Amazon for his latest self-published novel, a speculative fiction tale called The Secret Deaths of Arthur Lowe. If you enjoy creepy, eerie tales in a realistic setting, check it out here:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_21?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=the+secret+deaths+of+arthur+lowe&sprefix=the+secret+deaths+of+%2Caps%2C241&crid=2JTP5BUK2GDVS

Meanwhile, on I plod, perhaps the slowest runner on the track, and using this blog to connect with other writers and practice creative non-fiction. Happy scribbling to you!

And speaking of publishing, my blog buddy Stephanie Faris has a new children’s book out in her charming Piper Morgan series.

Piper Morgan tries her hand at acting in the fourth book of the charming Piper Morgan series.

Piper’s mom is helping out at a local pool shop, and the owner wants to shoot a commercial for his store. Piper thinks it’s the PERFECT opportunity to get in front of the camera and experience a little bit of showbiz. But will Piper’s contribution to the TV commercial make a splash—or will it go belly-up?

Bio: Stephanie Faris is the author of the middle grade books 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan chapter book series. An accomplished freelance writer, her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Pacific Standard, Mental Floss, and The Week, among many others. You can find this latest book here:

https://www.amazon.com/Piper-Morgan-Makes-Splash-Stephanie-ebook/dp/B01GD9CQC6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/piper-morgan-makes-a-splash-stephanie-faris/1123861540?ean=9781481457170

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781481457170

And here’s where you can meet Stephanie: https://stephaniefaris.com/

Podcast Paradise Part One: Podcasts for Writers

I’m a latecomer to the podosphere–Is that a word?–but lately I’m getting lots of value from free podcasts I download from iTunes. Not only do they increase my motivation to take frequent exercise breaks, but they ease my commutes and keep me company at the gym. As a mostly-introverted writer, I enjoy these entertaining, informative, lively conversations that require nothing more than my attention. And they come with a pause button!

Here are some I’ve enjoyed in the past six months that relate at least tangentially to writing:

  • Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before and her sister, TV writer Elizabeth Craft, offer lively conversations about habits and attitudes that lead to a happier, more productive life—and isn’t that what it’s all about?
  • So You Want to Be a Writer. Australian writers Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait talk about all things writing and interview writers. Good stuff.
  • Self-Publishing Roundtable. Here’s another band of Aussies who, alas, published their last podcast in December of 2016, but I’m gobbling up all their good advice while it’s still relevant and topical. Very informative, and fun accents!
  • TED Radio Hour. TED talks in podcast! Who knew? There’s lots here of interest to writers.
  • Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. The author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic interviews creative types, including many writers. Great inspiration here.
  • The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice. New Fiction from the New Yorker. Short stories read by actors. Really good!
  • Kendall & Cooper Talk Mysteries, by Washington mystery authors Wendy Kendall and Julie Cooper. Great for mystery fans and writers.
  • Seated at the Writers’ Table. This one leans more toward screenwriting, but contains lots of useful info for all fiction writers.
  • The Literary Salon. Mostly under an hour, the last podcast was posted in October of last year. Host Damian Barr interviews writers, who then read from their work.
  • Writing Excuses. These are quickies, lively fifteen-minute snippets about writerly topics. Lots of humor.
  • Helping Writers Become Authors. Another quickie, all under twenty minutes, K.M. Weiland offers advice for writers on a wide variety of craft and publishing issues.
  • Literary Lunch. In 2016, RO Literary Agency put out seven podcasts about the publishing industry. I particularly like their discussions of query letters, the good and the bad. Very specific.
  • Dead Robots’ Society. “A gathering of aspiring writers podcasting to other aspiring writers.” This was the first writers’ podcast I tried. Although it’s aimed mostly at the self-pub sci-fi and fantasy set, I’ve found lots that useful here, and their discussions are entertaining too.

Do you have any podcast recommendations to share, especially those that pertain to writing?

Reworking an Old Story, or the Blob That Ate the Bully

Wow, February just flew by. Like, zoom! Once again, it’s time for the IWSG question o’ the month. IWSG is a great resource for writers. and hosts a monthly blog hop. Give them a look here and join the conversation:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Why, yes I have! There were a few months when I was deep into edits for my second novel and had no new material for my twice-monthly critique group, so I unearthed a few old short stories lurking in my hard drive. Their style and content was quite different from my usual MO: instead of women’s fiction and cozy mysteries, these were Twilight Zone-esque speculative fiction.

How did that work out? I got enthusiastic feedback from my group members, most of whom write sci-fi and fantasy. The experience was a good reminder that I am capable of writing in a variety of styles and genres, and that doing so is good exercise for my writing muscles. Here’s a sample from the middle of The Vengeance, the tale of a little girl whose fear and anger at a bully manifests in a surprising way.

Miss Craft kept her promise. She stood at the school yard gate and watched as Katie quick-stepped toward the bushes, a thick patch of scratchy junipers where generations of kids had burrowed tunnels and hidden from teachers. Kids talked about the ‘cave’ inside there, but Katie had never worked up the nerve to peer inside.

As she passed, she heard scrabbling and whispers.

“Katie!” a voice hissed from inside the thicket.

Katie jumped, then looked back over her shoulder. Mr. Cricks, the principal, was talking to Miss Craft. The teacher glanced at Katie and waved her on, then turned to her boss.

A strong hand clamped onto Katie’s arm, yanking her inside the bushes. Another hand, cold and clammy, pressed over her mouth. Sharp twigs scratched her face and bare legs, and her backpack caught fast on a branch. For a moment, there was a tug-of-war between the backpack and the hand, but eventually Big Joyce won, and Katie was pulled into the “cave.”

Deep-green junipers arched overhead, leaving just enough room for the shorter kids to stand. Big Joyce had to hunch over, which only made her look more menacing. Katie whimpered and wrapped her arms around her shivering little body. Snarky Kelly and the other toadies grinned at her like hungry dogs waiting for a treat.

Big Joyce glowered. “Thought you could just walk on by, huh? Told you I’d be waiting for you, bitch.”

Katie could only stammer. She’d never heard a third grader say the B word. But that didn’t matter now, because she was going to die here, in the bushes.

Big Joyce yanked off Katie’s pink headband. “Nice bandage,” she sneered. “Want another one?”

“Naw, she wants more. Lots more bandages,” Snarky Kelly yapped.

“Yeah, cover up her ugly face,” Skinny Wanda crowed.

“Stupid little …Katie,” Dumb Laura chimed in.

The pack of toadies and their queen encircled Katie, blocking any chance of escape. Everything seemed to slow down, and Katie’s vision became watery as she swayed on rubbery knees. The cave smelt cool, and damp, and earthy–and a little bit rotten…

Joyce twirled Katie’s pink headband around her thick finger. “Think I could choke her with this?”

The toadies snorted and cackled.

Just behind Joyce, Katie saw a movement on the ground, as if water were flowing from the wall to pool around Joyce’s feet. Katie shivered, feeling colder and colder.

“Look at her shaking. She’s gonna pass out.”

“Hey,” Kelly asked the others, “can you really die of fright?”

“Let’s find out,” said Joyce, and lurched toward Katie. But her feet didn’t follow. They were stuck fast in the clear, thick goo oozing up her scabby legs.

“What the hell?” Joyce looked down, screamed, and toppled forward, taking Katie down with her. The toadies scattered, scrabbling out of the bushes like rats. Kicking hard, Katie managed to wriggle free.

The goo thickened as it expanded, sucking Joyce in. It reached her waist, then her chest, then her shoulders, making slurping sounds as it swallowed the squirming child. Joyce bucked and thrashed, her clawed hands scrabbling in the dirt, her eyes wild. The goo flowed up to her neck. Joyce gasped, her face purple, her mouth wide–but no sound emerged, for now the goo had filmed her face, stopping her screams.

Joyce fought a long time, her motions jerky, then sporadic, and then she was still, floating twisted inside the blob. The thing shivered, slid like a great slug back toward the wall, and then extended a thread of clear slime toward Katie. She scrabbled backward like a crab, “No! No please!”

The thing paused, then slowly extended its—what?—tentacle?—and gently brushed Katie’s leg. She braced herself for pain, but it felt cool, gentle. And though it made no noise, somehow she heard it say, “You’re welcome.”

It slithered back under the wall and was gone.

 

The Wisdom of Walt Whitman

Judging from the main portions of the history of the world, so far, justice is always in jeopardy.
–Walt Whitman

A brave soul brought a free-verse poem to today’s critique group. I’m seldom moved to write poetry, and I seldom seek it out, but I do enjoy reading it when it crosses my path. The purpose of poetry, after all, is to communicate a profound meaning in a compact package. Fiction tells a story, but poetry paints in colors of emotion. The poet slams you with a fist of truth, or slices into your heart with painful beauty, or distracts you with a charming image before ambushing you with a weighty understanding.

Some of today’s group members declared themselves uncomfortable critiquing poetry, or averse to poetry without a regular rhyme or meter. Of course, this made me think of my favorite poet, Walt Whitman.

We need you today, Mr. Whitman. Supremely democratic, proudly American, and a wonderful proto-hippie, you (mostly) eschewed the accepted poetic forms of your day to write sprawling, untamed poems that echoed the power and beauty of our (then) new nation. You celebrated the beauty and perfection of the common man—not as one looking down from his lofty tower, but as one who walked among them.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off
work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I think both my red and blue friends would find echoes of their varied conceptions of America in Whitman’s poetry. The bigots, of course, would not. Whitman was very inclusive.

Whoever degrades another degrades me,
and whatever is done or said returns at last to me.

And Whitman would not shrink from today’s debate and contention, I think. Nor would he admonish anyone to shut up, calling them “snowflakes.”

Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?
Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?

Whitman would not discourage marchers, and would probably wear a pink hat.

There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country,
if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.

So here’s to Papa Walt Whitman, a devoted American and wise poet who broke the accepted rules to create something wise and precious. In these contentious times, may we be inspired by his all-encompassing, inclusive love for America.

IWSG February 2107: Reading as a Writer, and Vice Versa

Can you believe how quickly another month has whizzed by? It’s time once again for our monthly question from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group. IWSG is a great resource for all us scribblers, and I’ve really enjoyed meeting other writers via this blog exchange. Give them a look here and join the conversation:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Our question for February: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

  1. Being a writer has reduced the amount of fiction I read, because I’m busy writing, or reading about writing. I’m working to change that, because reading widely makes me a better writer. It also teaches me about publishing trends, as well as changing tastes in fiction. And it’s fun. With all the dire news landing with juicy splats all around me, I find myself reaching for love stories, comedy, and other light-hearted literary diversions.
  2. Being a writer has made me a more critical reader. Having gobbled so many workshops, books, blogs, and magazines about the craft of writing fiction, I’m now much quicker to notice craft elements that, if mishandled, dampen a story’s impact. During my many years of teaching high school English classes, I looked at stories primarily from a reader’s point of view. If a story didn’t grab me, I just set it aside without much thought as to why it left me flat. But having studied the craft of writing from a writer’s point of view, I’m much more aware of issues like:
  • Characters who talk alike
  • Stories knitted together out of boring, predictable clichés
  • Protagonists I just can’t relate to, or whose actions don’t make sense
  • Lengthy flashbacks that don’t move the story forward
  • Long pauses in the narrative to insert info-dumps
  • Formulaic writing, such as ending every scene with a breath-taking cliffhanger
  • Purple prose and thesaurus abuse: writing that distracts me from the story rather than enhancing its impact

The good news is that because I notice these issues in others’ writing, I’m less likely to commit these crimes in my own work. So I hope, anyway.

So, what have you been reading lately, and has it helped your writing?