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About Writing Right: The Blog


Someone new to writing asked on Quora the other day what the rules are for using mythology in fantasy fiction. Here's what I told him.

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Good question. When it comes to writing fantasy and using mythology within your novel, you need to pay attention to the three Cardinal Rules of Inclusion. They are, in strict numerological order:1. Write correctly (grammatically); 2.Write effectively (phrasiologically); 3.Create the best damned, riveting, can't-put-it-down book you can possibly write (storyologically).


That's it. Also sometimes known familiarly as The Holy Trinity, those are the only rules you have to follow in writing fantasy while employing mythology as a literary tool. Wait a minute! On second thought, those are the only rules you have to follow in writing any fiction—period!


See, fiction is fiction because it's not nonfiction, poetry, or an aardvark. It's made up. It may be based upon a true story or true incidents, but it's still primarily manufactured in the writer's mind. That's what makes it so enjoyable. Both to write and to read. If it had a bunch of stodgy old rules bloating it, it would no longer belong to the writer but, rather, to a board of semi-retired, semi-cognizant rule-making academicians sitting around a big walnut table somewhere, deciding on what the writer can and can't do. If that were the case, we would never have been blessed with one thousandth of the great works of art that have graced our tables over the eons. Read More 

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Sitting around the ol' campfire the other night as the temperature hovered just north of zero, the inevitable question arose: Who wrote the first American crime novel? Having spent much of my life in hot pursuit of a response to just that very inquiry, I promptly perked up my ears and spilled out my brains.

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Now, this response isn't 100 percent guaranteed accurate, but all smoking guns seem to point to an author named Charles Brockden Brown for having written the first true American crime novel. Many literary historians consider his 1798 tome, Edgar Huntly, or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker, to be the primary, if not the most exemplary, suspect. According to the Website CrimeReads:


"The story is written in a quasi-epistolary form, mostly in letters from its titular hero to the sister of his murdered friend, Waldegrave."


The tale concerns a murderer, a murdered man, the murdered man's sister, and a friend of the deceased (our hero) determined to find and bring to justice the blaggard who did the dirty deed for the sister's peace of mind. The plot also involves a great deal of sleepwalking, both on behalf of the murderer and the sleuth on his tail. Sounds promising, doesn't it?

Hold on, though. Before you run out and search for a copy for your next winter's night read, here's an example from the book's very first chapter of what you can expect: Read More 

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Etta Place Reviewers Needed

Globe Pequot Press, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield, is looking for a few good men (and women!) to send complimentary review copies of the soon-to-be-released biography of mysterious and elusive Etta Place. She was one of two women gang members in the wild West's notorious The Wild Bunch. Riding with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Etta burst onto the scene in her early twenties and disappeared again just as suddenly several years later. But, in between, oh, what a ride she had!


If you'd like a review copy, either as an eBook or a rough, comb-bound print book, just let me know and I'll have the editors send you a copy. They're especially anxious to receive blurbs to include on the book's dust jacket cover. You'll be doing me a favor while securing a little free publicity for yourself. Not to mention learning more about one of the most obscure and fascinating women in western lore.


To request your complimentary review copy, click HERE.

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Where Can I Learn about Screenwriting?

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see your name on the big screen as a writer, here's your chance. Many writers would like to know what it takes to produce a successful screenplay—one that will sell! At its simplest, a script needs to tell a great story while making it easy for the director, actors, and production crew to bring it to life.


Simple? Well, not exactly. It takes a lot of skill and a working knowledge of how a story will translate to film. But if you take some time to practice, learn proper formatting, and develop the ability to look at your work with a constructive eye, you, too, could become a successful screenwriter.


Screenplays have changed a lot since the days of silent movies. Modern scripts need to include the spoken dialogue, descriptions of the scene and action, and shooting directions. They're more than just a script; they need to convey enough information to produce the movie in the way the writer intended while still leaving some creative freedom for the director and actors.


Getting this balance right is one of the most difficult aspects of screenwriting. From your first draft through refining the story, characters, and settings, it's a real balancing act that leaves many writers shaking their heads.


Now, an article on screenwriting from Maryville University can help you learn about common screenplay structures and effective dialogue, character development, and formatting. You'll get an overview of all the elements involved in bringing a screenplay from the blank page onto the big screen. You'll also get some examples of the greatest screenplays of all time and tips on breaking into the movie industry.


Sound too good to be true? Check it out before you start to work on that next Academy Award-winning production. And let us know what you think.

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What's the Difference between Writing a Book, a Novel, and a Script?

First of all, let's get our semantics straight. A novel is a book. But a book isn't necessarily a novel. It may be either a novel or a nonfiction work. The word, "book," simply refers to some form of literature that is "long form" rather than a short story or an article, for example. As for a play, that could be either a screenplay or a stage play—the former written for film and the latter for live theatrical performances. We won't even get into other types of scripts.


Regarding the differences between a novel and a script (or play), the most obvious is length. If you take an average-length book of 300 pages and adapt it into a screenplay or stage play (there is very little difference between the two except in the directions and a sense of the audience which is either watching live or watching on film), you cut, shorten, and tighten the novel down to roughly 90 pages. If you take a script and adopt it into a book, you have a MUCH tougher job. That's because you have to add not only words and pages to reach typical novel length but also effective descriptive passages, expanded dialogue, additional action, numerous subplots, and (most importantly of all) IMAGERY!


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Liability Insurance for Journalists

Been sued lately for $50 million for libel? One writer was, pointing out the obvious: without insurance, today's journalist is putting himself in jeopardy. Here's the full story from CJR.

[Columbia Journalism Review] - REPORTER YASHAR ALI in August found himself in a difficult situation for any journalist, let alone a freelancer. He was hit by a lawsuit from Fox News host Eric Bolling seeking a whopping $50 million in damages. The suit followed a story by Ali in the HuffPost that alleged the television personality had texted unsolicited photos of male genitalia to at least three colleagues.

Ali stood by his story, and so did HuffPost. Shortly after it ran, Fox suspended Bolling, and in September, the network announced he would be leaving the network “amicably.”

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Elektra Press Names Literary Scout

Feb. 23, 2017. Multi-book author/editor/ghostwriter D. J. Herda has today been named a scout for Elektra Press, according to E. P.'s CEO Donald Bacue. Herda's role will be to discover and sign to contract new and exciting literary discoveries, most notably from minority authors (particularly women), first-book authors, and foreign authors and to see them through to the successful editing, preparation, and publication of their works.

Among those fiction genres of particular interest are Women's, Debut, Literary, Mainstream/Contemporary, Romance, Historical, Mystery/Suspense, Western, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. Among nonfiction, Herda will be soliciting unusual and groundbreaking works from authors with solid platforms who have been unable to find a market for their seminal works at other houses.  Read More 
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Author, Insure Thyself!

You've spent too much of your life preparing for the future to piss it all away. But you may be doing exactly that if you haven't at least considered insuring yourself in your writing.

There are times when a writer has invested months or even years of his life preparing the book of the century only to learn that publishers won't touch it because they're afraid of getting sued. At times such as those, wouldn't it be nice to tell those publishers, "Hey, not to worry! I have had a media attorney review the material and have a $500,000 libel policy in place for any contingency we might require."

Well, you can! The Authors Guild has an agreement with AXIS PRO, the world's leading underwriter of media liability insurance, to offer Guild members professional liability insurance. Even without being a Guild member, you can check out what libel insurance would cost to protect you (and hold your publisher harmless) by filling out and submitting an AXIS PRO WriteInsure Application. For more information, check out this PDF document.

Coverage is available under the program, known as WriteInsure, for book authorship, freelance writing (including blogging on blogs owned by others), and blog sites that you own and operate. The insurance covers claims of libel, invasion of privacy, copyright or trademark infringement, plagiarism, errors and omissions, and other related risks. The program covers legal expenses incurred in defending a claim and any monetary damages due to judgments or settlements you may be required to pay. Read More 
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Author Income "Frightening"

"Where Does All the Money Go?" If that's a question you ask yourself about your dwindling book royalties, the answer shouldn't surprise you. According to Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson, a major portion of a writer's income gets gobbled up by--who else?--Amazon, Google, and other major Internet content providers. Here's a teaser from her speech:

"Suppose you decide to buy a copy of my most recent novel, Sparta, which came out in 2013. Chances are that you'll buy it on Amazon. The company offers a new paperback copy for $12.98. Also a new copy for $4.33. You can buy a used paperback for $0.01. Probably you won't choose to buy the more expensive copy. Why would you? You'll buy the cheaper one.

"But how can a new copy be sold for so little money? That new copy is probably one that the publisher sold off to make room in the warehouse. If a book's sales slow down and the publisher needs the space, it may sell copies at a deep discount to make room for other books. Many contracts have clauses that will allow the publisher to pay no royalties under these circumstances. So the publisher gets paid, and the middleman (in this case that kindly and book-loving site "Turnpike Liquidators") will get paid. And, of course, Amazon will get paid. Only the author will receive nothing for this sale of the new book she wrote. Read More 
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