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Writing Right: The Blog

HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD I SPEND OUTLINING MY NOVEL?

Someone asked this online the other day. I had a thought or two to contribute to several other responses she received. Here they are.

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I think I'm in love.

 

Seriously, I'm so glad you asked this question. And, I'm just a little disappointed in some of the other responses you've received, even the ones from people who mean well but aren't, umm, right on top of things. For example, outlines are not like a "safety net." They are the scaffolding and the foundation of your novel. They help you build it firm and strong from the ground to the roof ridge.

 

And to chastise people who use an outline as not recognizing writing as a "creative endeavor"? Well, that same guy is right. IF you don't give a damn about selling, working as a professional novelist and author, or making writing your future. That's when writing is a walk in the park, a kiss in the dark, and a creative endeavor.

 

Of course, all writing is a creative endeavor. At all times. But, if that's all you want, keep a diary. If you have hopes and dreams and aspirations of making it as a full-time freelance writer and author, you'd better look for more than a "creative endeavor" to sustain you. You'd better look for quality writing that's more than an expression of your creativity. You'd better look for sustainability. Read More 

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SETTING YOUR NOVEL "RESPONSIBLY"

A writer grappling with how to write a novel responsibly while placing it in Incan/Mayan lands received a suggestion from a "College/University" respondent to travel there to research the locality personally. My advice to the stymied author?

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Wow, leave it to a person whose credentials for answering a serious question are "attended some College/University." That's the person I'd want giving my friends and loved ones such life-altering advice as "travel to Mayan/Incan land" where you can learn firsthand how to write ethically while "thriving in context." You know, I have a piece of advice of my own for Mr. College/University: Go back to school and learn how to think things through practically.

 

The truth here is twofold. First, as for ethics, approach your subject ethically by being aware that we're all real human beings, some of whom are fortunate enough to be citizens of the United States of the Real World. In other words, don't worry about being politically correct. Do worry about portraying people and their cultures without bias. Treat all people equally, both in your writing and in your life, no matter what their culture is, and you're sure to be a winner. Don't talk down; write up!

 

Second, as for your book thriving in context, do some research. Travel there if Mr. College/University will pick up the tab. That's assuming you're not averse to the gangland murders and cartel mayhem spreading throughout the land. (Wow, good choice--Mexico!) Otherwise, listen up, because I have an alternative. It's called research.

 

Don't know how to research? Then either 1.) learn or 2.) set your fantasy culture in Detroit or Pittsburgh or someplace with which you're more familiar. Read More 

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Write the Image, Not the Word!

Take this to the bank: If it's a commonly accepted writing maxim, you need to challenge it. Here is one more of the most harmful "tips for better writing" I've come across in more than half a century of scratching pen across parchment. Ready?

"Write about what you know."

Oops, wrong-o, bong-o! You can know plenty about your subject and still come across as a rank amateur. The truth is, you should write not about what you know so much as about what you see! If you can't visualize the image in your cranium, you'll never be able to help your reader create a mental picture of it. And if you can't do that, you'll never be a good writer.

Which brings up a point too often left undiscussed: The art of writing isn't about putting words on paper, it's about putting images in people's minds. Images are created by a word or a combination of words that generate a mental picture of the scene, place, person, or event in the reader's head.

So, what's the difference? Check out these two similar sentences:

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