• Browsing all articles in ABCs of Writing

    The Hardest Part of Self-Publishing Your Book

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 1 comment
    Dec
    8

    Since announcing our new publication assistance services, we’ve received more than the usual amount of questions about self-publishing, particularly: What is the hardest part of self-publishing your book and are there any easy parts?

    We figured who better to pose these questions to than WriteByNight clients with real-world experience. Four helpful writers responded: Dana Frank, Assaf Raz, Dan Hays, and Marcia Drut-Davis.

    We’ll tackle the “easy” part next week, but for this week we’re going to start with the hard stuff. read more

    Here Comes 2019! And Why Do You Write?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 9 comments
    Dec
    1

    2019 — and its attendant resolutions — is less than a month away.

    That means you have four solid weeks to come up with your new writing goals.

    If you partake of such things! Not all of us do. I go back and forth. Some years I set a vague goal such as “Get better!” or “Write more!” Some years, no goal at all. For 2018, according to this post where I, and some of you, shared our 2018 writing goals, I wanted to “complete a draft of the book I began writing in May.”

    lol. read more

    Franzen Folderol

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 16 comments
    Nov
    17

    The other day LitHub published a piece titled “Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Novelists,” borrowed from Jonathan Franzen’s new essay collection.

    It caused some hubbub.

    Literary Twitter went nuts. Writers and readers piled on Franzen, calling his list pretentious, narrow-minded, and/or just plain ridiculous. Chuck Wendig, to the delight of many, went on a long rant.

    Others argued that the piece is taken out of context and say that Franzen’s publicists were just trying to promote the book. Some even claimed the list is meant to be satire. (It may be. I’ve never read Franzen, so I’m not familiar enough to comment.)

    Anyway, agree with the list (or parts of it) or not, there are two of them I want to dig into, especially here in mid-November, halfway through NaNoWriMo. read more

    On NaNoWriMo, NaNoReMo, and Mo’

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 13 comments
    Nov
    4

    National Novel Writing MonthShow of hands: Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year?

    Before I got wise, I thought NaNoWriMo stood for National November Writing Month. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense.

    But as most of you know, it’s really National Novel Writing Month, during which thousands of writers vow to write every day and have a first draft of a novel by November 30, a.k.a. my birthday, what should be a national holiday.

    I won’t be NaNoWriMoing, but I will be NaShoStoWriMoing. My old accountability partner and I are restarting our thing, and my goal is to each week write a first draft of one new short story and revise one old story.

    Roll call: Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it before? Did it work? Tell us about your approach and process in the comments. read more

    Observations on Books & Reading in Ireland

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 7 comments
    Oct
    28

    Justine and I spent a week in Ireland in mid-October, half in Sligo on the northwest coast, half in Dublin. We visited about a dozen bookstores and libraries and took note as best we could of the literary culture. Here are a few (hopefully not lame) observations:

     

    1. Two of the Dublin bookstores we stopped at mark their books up from the cover price. I don’t mean hard-to-find first editions–I mean trade or mass market paperbacks of new or recent books. These stores place their own price tag sticker over the price printed on the book.

    One book whose cover price was 10 Euro was marked 15.50. That’s a $6 markup!

    Your turn: Have you ever seen this anywhere in the States? Is it a turn-off, or do you not mind? Share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

     

    2. Few new releases in Ireland (and the UK, since that’s where most of them are published) seem to come in hardcover. Most of them are trade paperbacks that are just a little taller than the standard trade. I like this. They’re also less expensive than the U.S.’s $25-30 per.

    Your turn: Do you like hardcovers or do you wish U.S. new releases came in paperback? read more

    Your Top 6 Questions About Publishing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 2 comments
    Oct
    13

    After last week’s announcement of our three new publication assistance services, a few readers reached out with questions about publication, and we answered ’em, because that’s why we’re here.

    But when it comes to publishing, many writers have questions, and many writers have the same questions, so I grabbed the six most popular (actually, it’s kind of seven; I’m cheating a little) to answer here today.

    Some are about self-publishing, some are about traditional vs. self- vs. hybrid, some are about WriteByNight’s role in the process (spoiler alert: We don’t publish books! But we can help you find a publisher). All of them are questions we’ve heard more than a few times each, so chances are that you’ve wondered about one or two of them yourself.

    If you have any questions about publication that we haven’t answered here, leave ’em in the comments and we’ll respond. read more

    Who Are Today’s Top Horror Writers?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 13 comments
    Sep
    29

    I’ve just finished (and loved) reading Frankenstein for the first time, a discussion of which you can listen to for Yak Babies (my books podcast) October Spooktacular, a series of episodes about horror books, movies, games, and more.

    Now I’m in the mood to read more horror, both old and new, as Halloween approaches. But I need help.

    I have a few classics I’ve never read but plan to, including DraculaThe Haunting of Hill House, and Dorian Gray.

    I might also revisit a few American gothic favorites such as Edgar HuntlySleepy Hollowand maybe some Hawthorne short stories.

    As for contemporary horror, I’m looking for some new names. That’s where you come in. read more

    Should You Use Obscure Words & Jargon?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Dos & Don'ts     Comments 20 comments
    Sep
    23

    Within the past month I’ve had conversations with two people expressing opposite viewpoints on a (not) hotly debated topic: Using big and/or obscure words in your writing.

    On one these people, Andrew, bemoaned the fact that so many writers, particularly in literary fiction, will sometimes spend an entire paragraph describing the intricacies of, say, the woodworking that went into making an end table.

    To paraphrase: “They use all this esoteric jargon to describe this thing, using all these words I don’t know, rather than just describing the thing in everyday language.

    “Or,” he continued, “not describing the thing at all. Why does it matter that there’s an end table, if it’s not significant to the story? And even if it is, who cares what sort of tools or whatever the woodworker used? It’s so masturbatory. Why do I need three pages about an end table when I can get the same effect with one line?”

    Andrew went on to talk about how annoying he thinks it is to come across words he doesn’t know, because he has to either stop reading and look up the word or continue reading without fully understanding what’s happening.

    But Daniel would call that lazy reading. read more

    Packing Books for Vacation

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 13 comments
    Sep
    8

    I’ve been on vacation — a beach vacation, at that — for ten days now and I’ve read not even half a book.

    Before we left, I asked Justine to be my book sheriff: “Don’t let me bring more than two books,” I said. Because usually I get out of control when packing for a trip. I always think I’m going to do nothing but read, and so I bring the number of books that aligns with constant reading.

    Like, a book per day. read more

    Seasonal Reading Habits & You

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 4 comments
    Sep
    1

    With autumn fast approaching, it’s almost time to put away our summer books and look to the fall.

    That’s a thing, right? Don’t our reading habits shift with the seasons?

    I’m going to take a stab at diagnosing myself as a reader — what kinds of books do I turn to in which seasons —  and then afterwards I’ll consult my reading list to see how wrong I am.

    Your turn: How about you? Do you read different kinds of books in different seasons? Let us know in the comments. read more

    Share Your Rejection

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 12 comments
    Aug
    25

    The #ShareYourRejection hashtag on Twitter has gotten a lot of action lately, and in no surprise, writers are among the most vocal.

    Many of these responses are inspirational tales of books that were rejected dozens of times before finding a publisher, like Arianna Huffington’s, Jill Orr’s, and Dea Poirier’s.

    Other writers flash some humor within the trauma, like Hannah Khalil, Erin Vincent, and Joseph Finder.

    And then there are the anecdotes that are truly horrific and/or weird, like this one from A.N. Devers.

    As writers, rejection is folded into our lives. So many thousands of agents, publications, and publishers reject so many thousands of projects and writers each year. It’s just math. read more

    Literary vs. Genre Fiction: Your Reading & Writing Habits

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 20 comments
    Jul
    28

    For this week’s new episode of Yak Babies we discuss so-called literary fiction: What does the phrase mean, is it little more than a marketing term, how is it distinguished from genre fiction, etc.

    Growing up, I read only genre fiction, except for assigned books. Like I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I started with the Hardy Boys, and then eventually moved into Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Cussler territory. On the podcast I speculate that all teenagers are drawn to genre fiction, and then I say something like “No teenager wants to read Ann Beattie.”

    It would’ve been more accurate to say “Few teenagers” rather than “No teenager.” Of course there are teens out there who love Ann Beattie. But I think the spirit of what I’m saying is true.

    But here’s your chance to prove me wrong!

    Your turn #1: As a teenage reader, were you drawn more to genre fiction or to literary fiction? Why? read more

    What Is Your Desert Island Book?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 25 comments
    Jul
    21

    The other day I was watching the episode of The Office where Ryan starts a fire and the gang mills around in the parking lot playing “Desert Island.” Each person gets to choose three books, and Jim reminds them that these are the books they’ll be forced to read over and over again for the rest of their lonely lives, barring rescue.

    Dwight chooses the Physician’s Desk Reference, but then goes on to say that the book is hollowed out, and inside he has matches, a knife, whatever other survival gear. And then, “in case I get bored,” he also chooses a Harry Potter book.

    Like these things do, it got me to thinking about what my desert island books would be. And when I think of anything related to books or my own writing, I naturally wonder about all of you too.

    Choosing three books seems too easy. Choosing one is difficult.

    Your turn: What is your one desert island book? And, most importantly, why?  read more

    Music While You Read, Music While You Write

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 36 comments
    Jul
    14

    In this quick Yak Babies bonus episode, my personal pals and I discuss whether or not we listen to music while we read or while we write.

    I do not. At least, not if I’m reading or writing at home; I won’t put music on.

    But if I’m doing those activities in public, at a bar or coffee shop or what have you, I don’t mind the music. It doesn’t distract me. In fact, I think it adds to the experience; I imagine I’d struggle to write or read in a quiet, musicless bar. (Musicless. What a weird-lookin’ word.)

    I’ve tried listening to music at home, and it just doesn’t work. Why, then, does it help me when I’m in public? I dunno. It’s just woven into the experience, I suppose. It’s part of the ambiance.

    Your turn: Music while you read or while you write, yes or no? If no, why not? If yes, what kind? Headphones or not? And what purpose does it serve for you? Let us know in the comments. read more

    “Purr” Gold: The Hardy Boys & Childhood Pride in Reading

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 65 comments
    Jul
    7

    It’s no mystery why Hardy Boys books are almost unreadable: lame plots, terribly stilted dialogue, flat characters who remain wholly undeveloped, even after nearly sixty books. Not to mention the lack of verisimilitude of two characters who are eternally eighteen and seventeen and seemingly never attend school.

    But boy did I love those books as a kid. I don’t think I read all fifty-eight of the original series, but I gave it the ol’ Frank and Joe Hardy high school try.

    I read plenty of ABC and Dr. Seuss-level books, but the Hardys are what first grabbed me and made me curious about the world. Those guys went everywhere, man, and I read at a fever pace just to keep up with them.

    But not only were these books fun and adventure-filled, they also gave me my first feelings of pride as a reader. read more

    Whatever You’re Most Scared Of

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 8 comments
    Jun
    23

    In Beatlebone, a novel I wrote about in last week’s post, “Books I Return to Again and Again (and Again),” Kevin Barry includes an entire chapter, ostensibly nonfiction, about his process researching and then writing the book. It’s such an odd and fascinating decision; somehow it works, and is among my favorite parts of the book.

    There’s a line in that chapter that I find particularly interesting: “Whatever it is that you’re most scared of surfacing in your work, you can be sure that it’s nearby.”

    Barry proceeds to write about the thing he’s most scared of. For him it’s sentimentality, something that permeates Beatlebone and, apparently, his own life, even though he doesn’t want it to.

    I just finished reading this book for the fourth time, and this time around, I forced myself to think about what I’m “most scared of surfacing” in my writing.

    What are you most scared of surfacing in your writing? Let us know in the comments below. Use a pseudonym if you’re shy. read more

    Books I Return to Again and Again (and Again)

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 10 comments
    Jun
    16

    A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I talked about how I’ve never read Philip Roth and then listed a whole heap of others writers and books I’ve never read.

    This week, I want to list for you every book and writer I have read.

    Nah, just kidding. Although, as I’ve written about before, a few years ago I did start keeping track of every book I read.

    I had cause to scan those lists recently, and I took note of some titles that pop up often, not every year, but with a frequency that makes them stand out.

    Rereading is interesting. I think there are three reasons I reread: read more

    What Is Your Strangest Writing Experience?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 17 comments
    Jun
    9

    This week we’re pleased to introduce our newest writing coach and consultant, Caro Clark. Caro comes to us from New Orleans, where she moved to pursue an MSW from Tulane after earning an MFA from the University of New Hampshire.

    To learn more about Caro, read this Q&A, and if you’re interested in working with her, let’s discuss during your free writing consult.

    My favorite question from these staff Q&As is “What is your strangest writing experience?” Caro’s response is a particularly good one:

    “One time I wrote a piece of fiction about a man from a remote seaside town who I gave the occupation of being a fisherman. Five years later, I met and dated that very person with that very name, first and last. In the story he died at sea. In real life, we broke up.”

    What is your strangest writing experience? Let us know in the comments below. read more

    Jugglers & One-Track Writers

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 17 comments
    Jun
    2

    There’s a guy I hang out with who’s a writer. He’s working on a memoir, and has been for a couple of years. Right now, he’s setting that book aside.

    To write a white paper.

    On auto tires.

    For money, of course! It’s a day job. Auto tires are not a passion of his. (Did you ever notice that we never say “car tires,” only “auto tires”? Or am I making this up? But we say “car battery” rather than “auto battery”; “car horn” rather than “auto horn.”)

    But he said something interesting: “Whenever I have to do a big white paper, I need to stop working on the memoir. I only have enough headspace for one [writing project] at a time.”

    I’ve known many writers who operate the same way. One-track writers, let’s call ’em. read more

    Gaining — or Regaining — Your Focus

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 14 comments
    May
    20

    A few days ago, some Twitter pundit made a crack about Bull Durham being overrated and the Durham Bulls responded by calling the pundit overrated. It was all very silly, but it kept being tweeted into my timeline, so I had to see it again and again and again.

    It reminded me that Kevin Costner keeps living out what I imagine were his boyhood fantasies of playing baseball: Bull DurhamField of Dreams, one of my guilty pleasures (and a movie that’s arguably better than the book), and the just plain godawful pile of treacle For Love of the Game.

    Whenever I think of that movie I remember a recurring theme where Costner, as an aging ex-superstar… ugh, who cares about the plot. Whenever the crowd noise is getting to him, he takes a deep breath and then shuts out the noise by saying to himself, “Clear the mechanism.” It’s just so stupid.

    But the spirit of it is something I think about a lot, especially in regards to writing: How do we clear the noise and focus? read more




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