About the Author

Holly Lisle began writing in 1984, and sold her first novel in 1991. She went full-time in 1992 with a three-book deal from Baen Books, and has been supporting herself and her family exclusively by writing fiction since then (though along with the man, are we solvent months there have been a few canned bean months). She has seventeen books in print and has been published both in the United States and abroad, in both English versions and translation. Her most recent novels, Diplomacy of Wolves...

Above all believe

Believe that what you are doing matters. It does. Believe that you can reach out with your words and change a live. You can. Believe that you are doing something to make the world you live in a better place for all of us. You are. Keep writing. Keep believing. And never give up on your dreams. HollyLisle.com Writers' Forum - busy writing bulletin board HollyLisle.com Writers Resources and Articles HollyLisle.com Forward Motion for Writers http hollylisle.com fm index.html HollyLisle.com...

Act like youre in business

Get a reputation for being pleasant and easy to work with. Take reasonable suggestions, and deal with suggestions that don't work for you in a calm and reasonable way. For God's sake don't become a pain-in-the-ass artiste. If you do, you may find yourself first against the wall come the revolution. And revolutions go through the publishing business about once every two or three years, where editors and publishers all leap up and race madly to grab some other...

Allow the unexpected to happen

Characters sometimes grab the bit between their teeth and take off in directions you didn't expect - and if you aren't a horseman, this image doesn't convey much of raw power or raw terror to you, so I'm going to give you a story from my personal experience. I was thirteen. I had a horse - my parents got him for me from one of those kids' camps that has horses over the summer and looks for places to board them over the winter. He was mine for a season, and while he was mine, I loved him dearly....

Allow yourself to be surprised

This is for the other half of the writing universe - the half that sticks rigidly to the outline, that takes characters who go off in their own directions as a personal affront, and that feels that the writer must control the story at all times. Control is seriously overrated. Take this from the person who used to write thirty-page chapters. Not twenty-nine. Not thirty-one. Thirty. Every chapter. I was proud of the fact that I could write a story that would have the exact word count called for...

Always determine in advance who will do what and who will own what And put down your agreements in writing

Now you're going to say, Okay, that one doesn't apply to me because I'm going to be doing my collaboration with my best friend. Next Wait. Please. This is the most important thing that you can do, right now, to make sure that you and your friend are still friends after the collaboration is done. I lost a friend - a good friend - over a collaboration, and I might have lost her anyway, but if we had written down, in advance, what each of us would be required to do to complete an acceptable...

Are there any rules for people who are criticizing each others work to follow

One nasty writer with a mean streak can destroy a talented beginner, and use his critique time as a way to grind the competetion into powder. This is stupid, it sucks, and it's pointless. There is a better ' , u j , , vm Schrodingers Petshop Rules of way. Critiques should deal only with the work, should be constructive, and should be short. If one person takes more than ten minutes to discuss a piece of work, that's a good sign that the meetings are poorly controlled.

Are there any rules for people whose work is being criticized to follow

People get very defensive when others are telling them what they did wrong, and their first impulse seems to be to argue. The critique-ee needs to have 0 , ,. , , , , rZ, At r-- Schrodingers Petshop Rules of rules to follow, too, and the first of these in criti d 39 needs to be Shut up and listen. If people eing ri ique p. have taken the time to read or listen to what you wrote, take the time to hear what they have to say about it.

Are We Having Fun

In which we discuss that moment in your life when you're sitting at the kitchen table at three-twenty-seven in the morning with a cup of coffee that once might have tasted like something other than toxic waste but that now would make drinking from Love Canal back in the 60's preferable when you've bitten the head off of every human being who has dared to breathe loudly in your presence for the past week when the sound of fingers on keys (or even the scritch of a pen on paper) makes you want to...

Benefits of Membership

The biggest benefit is obviously the privilege of attending meetings (and sometimes the honor of hosting one). At meetings, your work is heard by professionals, semipros, and aspiring writers, and critiqued on the basis of its marketability. You will get marketing information and occasional updates on markets, meet folks who can help you make professional connections, and have a lot of fun. Attending meetings is a privilege and not a right. Memberships can be revoked - for failure to follow...

Bring home flowers

Bring home books instead. Books about writing, books you wish you had written, books about subjects that interest you but that you know nothing or next to nothing about surround yourself with words that inspire you, words that entice you, words that tempt you, words that make your heart beat faster. Personally, (and I know this sounds about as sexy as unwrapping a mummy), non-fiction books about archeology, anthropology, and ancient cultures and civilizations really float my...

By Donald Maass

Heinemann Books, ISBN 0-435-08134-9 - pub. date 1996 Written by respected agent Donald Maass, The Career Novelist covers in intelligent and thoughtful detail the facts of life for any writer who wants to make it as a professional. In twenty clear-eyed chapters, Maass details everything from when to quit your day job to how to find the right agent to how to keep from sinking your own career to how to revive it if you've already made serious mistakes. While geared for the already-published...

By Lawrence Block

I can give you unbiased reviews of lots of writers, but I can't give you an unbiased review of Lawrence Block. I'm warning you in advance. The man is one of my heroes, and my role-model, and one hell of a writer at everything he turns his hand to. Consider yourself warned, then. I started reading Lawrence Block back before I realized that books had authors. (At one point in my childhood, I'm pretty sure I thought they were either dictated by gods or grew on trees.) But the public library had a...

By Natalie Goldberg

Shambala Press, ISBN 0-87773-375-9 - pub date. 1986 If we never forgot what we learned, we could read this book once and never get stuck in the middle of writing again. However, I find that with every new book I start, I forget as much as I remember, and somewhere in the heart of the story, I get lost. I become sure that I've forgotten how to write, or that my story has deserted me, or that it wasn't worth writing in the first place. When that moment arrives (or at least when the moment after...

By Ralph Keyes

A couple of months ago, I wrote an essay on everyday courage and the writer. Not long ago, I found an entire book on the subject, and it is a wondrous book. It has something of relevence to say to anyone who writes, anyone who dreams of writing, anyone who has always promised himself 'someday I'm going to write a book,' - in other words, anyone who might possibly read this review. Keyes doesn't hide behind writerly terms and the distance of objectivity. He admits that he is afraid to write, and...

By Syd Field

Dell Publishing, ISBN 0-440-57647-4 - pub. date 1979, 1982 First off, let me say that not all writing books are for all writers, and this is one of those books that will only appeal to some. It is not, however, only appropriate for screenwriters and screenwriting hopefuls. I hold the firm opinion that the smart writer will look outside books aimed only at his specialty if he wants to learn - and if you want to write novels, and if you're having problems with plotting them, this book will give...

Concept Discussions

This is more of an I've already published a few books and now I've sold one on an outline and a sample chapter sort of section, but sequentially, this is the point where the process takes place, so let's go through how it works. NOTE I have done this many times, it can be grueling, it can beat your ego into pulp, and you have to be good at it or you will find yourself making enemies where you need allies. Here's the scene. Your editor calls you on the phone, (or sends you a letter) and says she...

Conventions Dinners Hanging

Here we have yet another series of opportunities to either have a great time or wake up the next morning wishing you were dead. We'll deal with conventions, writers' conferences, and so on first. You go to them hoping to meet editors, and maybe you'll be lucky and get the chance. If you do find yourself talking to an editor who publishes books in your field, Do NoT whip out your manuscript and offer to let her read it. Do not lurk outside the restroom stall and shove it under the door at her,...

Courage of Falcons

To defeat the Dragons, Kait and Ry must destroy the source of the sorcerers' power -- the Mirror of Souls. But if they succeed, they will lose the only weapon that can stop Luercas from becoming a demonic god who will enslave the entire world . . . forever. Chapters, reviews, and books available at the HollyLisle.com Book Shop. The Following Books, sample chapters, and reviews are also available at the Book Shop, subject to availability. Fire in the Mist Bones of the Past Mind of the Magic...

Create five or six candybar scenes and use them to keep you moving forward

First, let me define a candy-bar scene. It's one that you're just itching to write -something sweet enough that you can dangle it on a stick in front of yourself so that you can say, When I've done these next three chapters, I'll get to write that one. If you're doing fantasy, maybe one of your candy-bar scenes will be the one where the hero discovers for the first time that he can control some magical force or element . . . but that he can't yet control it very well. You can just imagine the...

Deadline Concerns

Your editor says the first draft is due in December and the published book will be on the shelves a year later. So you actually have some fudge time, don't you You can be a few weeks (or a few months) late getting the book in, right No. You can't. First draft is just the beginning of the process of getting your book ready for publication. Once you're done with it, the editor will read it - and she needs some leeway on the time it will take her to do that, because yours is not the only project...

Dealing With Money

The first reality of writing full time is that money is always tricky. You have it in large chunks, then you don't have it at all. You can't count on a check every week, or every month, or even every six months. It comes when it comes, and you have to figure out how to make it last until it comes again, even though you never know when that will be. Here's how you do it. 1. Put aside more money than you could possibly need before you leave. Figure out what it takes you to survive for a year, and...

Dealing With Your Family

Families come in all kinds, but no matter what kind yours happens to be, they are probably going to think that quitting a nice, stable job to go haring off into the woolly world of full-time writing is a dumbass thing to do. And from the point of view of nice sane people everywhere, they are probably right. If you were one of the nice sane people everywhere, though, you wouldn't even have made it this far in the article, so I feel safe in addressing you, the wild and woolly fellow writer. Here...

Determine a voice

For salable novels, you need to resign yourself to either first person (Let me tell you about the time I found a diamond in my soup, and almost got killed by a hit man.) or third person (The stranger picked up his spoon and stirred it through his chili. He chuckled and glanced up at the waitress. Let me tell you about the time I found a diamond in by soup, and almost got killed by a hit man.) Second person, the voice so popular in those choose-your-own-story adventure juveniles (You stir your...

Dialogue Workshop

I got a question in my e-mail not too long ago on how to do dialogue. As far as I've ever been able to tell, writing good dialogue comes from being able to hear voices in your head that aren't there - which in times past has been enough to get you burned at the stake or drowned at a dunking post, and which currently, if you admit to it in the wrong company, can get you a quiet room with rubber walls and all the free Thorazine you can swallow. Never let it be said that writing well is not...

Diplomacy of Wolves

Kait Galweigh, a young diplomat cursed with a dark secret, must choose to save a world that shuns her and would destroy her if that secret were revealed. Book I of THE SECRET TEXTS, and Locus 1 Bestseller. Chapters at Order online at Book 2 of the SECRET TEXTS Vengeance of Dragons Kait Galweigh must find a path to hope when a long-cherished prophecy shatters, leaving its believers, the only people who can battle an evil returned from centuries of hiding, crushed and despondent.

Divide your workload clearly

If one of you is going to do the even chapters and the other one is going to do the odds, fine. If one is going to do all the scenes with Elmira Fairclothe and the other is going to write only from the point of view of Studly Stallionbritches, that's okay too. If you want to write the first draft and have your friend do the second, that also works. What you don't want is to be bopping along on chapter three and have your collaborator suddenly start having ducks because you've stepped on what he...

Do not expect consideration

You have a job, right You're going to be sitting at a keyboard stretching your brain for God knows how many hours. Your family (and friends) will keep this in mind, right Wrong. Your family and friends will figure as long as you're home all day, you might as well be doing something useful, like laundry, or running the kids everywhere, or going out to breakfast or lunch or shopping or The list of things other people will find for you to do is endless, and destructive beyond belief. Given the...

Does the group have any interest in the type of writing you want to do

This may seem irrelevant to you - you may be thinking We're all writers, right They'll be glad to help me. Unfortunately it isn't true. The worst horror stories I got were from writers who wanted to write SF or romances and attended meetings at the other large local Schrodinger's Petshop's Writer group in the area. They found themselves and Requirements unworthy, and stupid - in spite of the fact that many of them did very good work. They were not, you see, considered sufficiently literary to...

Does the group have set guidelines for behavior and a way to remove troublesome members

Shouldn't be necessary, should it After all, everybody's an adult. or at least literate. At least that's the theory. Schrodinger's Petshop In fact, however, a removal rule is necessary. Membership Guidelines p.37 You can get a great group together, and you can be having wonderful meetings, and someone will unsuspectingly bring the Writer From Hell with him to a meeting. This writer will ignore the rules, attack the other writers, try to hog the meeting, refuse to even consider changing a word...

Dont get drunk

Don't order the most expensive thing on the menu just because she's paying. Don't make a pass at her no matter how cute she is and how studly you are (or any variation on the gender thing). Listen more than you talk. (Yeah, I know I already said that, but I wanted to be sure you remembered it. It's the most important rule.) Finally, hanging out. A few more rules. Don't hog access to the editor you won't be the only writer at the party (or fair, or whatever) and others will want to hang out...

Dont only read things you like either

If you hate romances, ask someone who is both knowledgeable about the field and a bit discriminating what some of the good ones are. Pick up two or three and read them from start to finish. Ditto if you hate SF or fantasy or mystery or mainstream or whatever. You can find tools everywhere, and you will find more of them in fields that have been fallow for you for most or all of your life than in the fields that you have been plowing and depleting for years. If you want to stay fresh, you cannot...

Editor Etiquette

First off, let me tell you that you're getting a writer's, not an editor's, perspective on how a writer should approach and work with an editor. The editing I've done has been on a high school yearbook, and on several newsletters over quite a few years, and while working as a writing instructor for Writer's Digest (briefly), but none of those count as a professional credit, so I cannot give you the scoop from the other side of a professional editor's desk. I have, however, managed to work with...

Embrace a theme

Know whether the story you are writing is about good versus evil, or about the transcendence of love, or about anything that can go wrong going wrong. You'll find additional themes as you're writing that will add depth and resonance to your main theme, and sometimes the main theme will shift focus part way through the book, but if you don't know what the theme is to begin with, you won't have any control of it when it shifts. And theme more than anything else is what will unify the beginning of...

Example Dialogue Workshop

I wasn't expecting you here. It's been a real day for expectations. Where were you I've been waiting here for an hour. You didn't leave a note or - I wasn't planning on going anywhere -I can see that. Where's your coat I left the house in a hurry. I um my mother The hospital reached you God, I'm sorry. That's why -The hospital They called me when they couldn't get you. I don't understand. Your mother. You said - I ran out to buy some flowers for her. She's been so down....

Finding Silence

We who write or aspire to write make much of place. A place to work, a room of our own, an office, a nice quiet spot at a corner diner where the waitresses know not to ask how we're doing if the pen is moving a place in the world to call mine. We claim this space in the name of writing, and guard it jealously, because space set aside acts to validate our dreams, and reminds us of the promise we have made to ourselves - the promise to write. When we are in our space and writing, spouses need not...

First Draft First Look

You've finished the book, and you have the overwhelming urge, upon typing the last words, to immediately print the thing and send it out in the mail. (At least I do. By the time I finish my books, they feel like houseguests who have way overstayed their welcome. I want them out the door yesterday.) Take ten slow breaths, say your mantra, hit your thumb with a hammer - do whatever you have to do to put the brakes on. Don't send the book out yet. You have things to do to it before your editor...

First know how it ends

This may seem obvious - but then again, maybe not. Back in my days of thirty-page novel starts that never went anywhere, i never knew how the story would end. it was only when I figured this key point out that I finished a novel. (Hearts in Stitches), a supposed-to-be funny romance novel about a nurse and an architect that, fortunately, died by fire. Actually, was killed by fire. By me. On purpose. Trust me - it was kinder that way.) You can simply tell yourself, When I reach the part of this...

Give your character a few friends as interesting as he is and as deep

I admit to wanting to kill Susan Silverman, Spenser's long-time girlfriend lover live-in companion. She is such a shallow bitch. I want to see him find a real woman, and I know he never will, and that's sad. Spenser's other main friend, Hawk, however, always interests me. He's always deeper than he seems, always knows more than you think he does, always surprises. Hawk is a great series character. When you're developing your own series, give as much thought to the people your main character...

Give your character a theme

Spenser is the slightly battered white knight, rescuing the helpless. Matt Scudder is the fierce and wounded avenger of the unjustly dead. Your character needs to have a reason for going on, a reason for doing what he or she does long after any normal person would throw up hands and say, Enough, already. I'm getting a job at the Quickie Mart. This reason, this compelling urge forward in the face of insurmountable odds, is your character's theme . . . and may well be one of your own. Ten keys....

Give your character plenty of room for change and growth

Start your character when he's young and relatively innocent. He'll accumulate scars even faster than you will - let him have a mostly clean slate on which to accumulate them. You'll find exceptions to this rule on the shelves - series characters who debuted as older men or women. But these old characters - both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot come to mind - don't age or change. They're set pieces who go about the business of resolving their stories, but they never surprise. If you've read one...

Give your character serious problems that he or she cant resolve in one book or even ten

Spenser deals with the mob and crime in Boston. Neither the mob nor Boston criminals are going anywhere anytime soon. Spenser could live forever and still not run out of enemies to fight. Matt Scudder is dealing with New York's criminals. same story. In a fantasy series, you'll have the rival wizards' college, or the nightmare creatures that live just over the border, or the poisoned magic that pours down from the North Pole every winter. In a western series, you'll have the Civil War or the...

Give your character some endearing qualities that make you want to visit with him or her again and again

Give him a soft spot for kids or dogs. Give her a passion for chocolate, or for rescuing the down-and-out. Create for him or her a sheer joy in living that transcends the mire into which you are eventually going to throw this poor shmuck. You have to like spending time with this person - over the years, you're going to be giving him or her as much of your time as you give to a spouse, and more than you give to a best friend. Make sure you share some common loves.

Go someplace special together

If you write science fiction or fantasy (or to a lesser degree, mysteries) you already have a ready-made special place where you and your writing can go. The SF F field is loaded with wonderful conventions. Find ones where more panels are dedicated to writers and books than to role-playing gamers and media fandom - you want to be inspired, and you'll get the most inspiration by meeting the writers, editors, publishers and agents who bring out the sorts of books you want to be doing. The mystery...

Handing In the Resignation

I only have two pieces of advice here. 2. Don't resign by using firearms. Otherwise, whatever you do is probably cool. A friend of mine danced on his desk in the law office while cutting his tie into small pieces. The second time I quit the day job - the time I quit for real - I went home and had a bonfire in my back yard in which I burned my uniforms. (There are times when living in the country is a wonderful thing. That wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying in a fireplace.) It was great....

Having the Contracts to Quit On

If this sounds ominously like I'm saying you have to sell a book before you quit, that's because I am. Don't quit the day job because you got a killer idea for a series, or because you're sick of work and you think writing would be more fun (it would - but that's not the point) or because you've finished your first book and your friends all love it. For that matter, don't quit the day the editor calls you and tells you that she wants to buy your first book. Don't quit the day you sign the first...

How do you avoid this mistake

If you're planning on writing a series, stick to your plan. Don't rest your series, don't alternate with non-series books, don't wander around outside of the concept of the series itself. Stick to your world, stick to your characters . . . and stick to your guns. If the first and second books tank, you're going to have to write something else. No one is going to buy books in a series that is doing poorly. But if you get rolling well out of the starting gate, keep yourself in the race.

How to Collaborate and How Not To

Collaborations are the proverbial double-edged sword - they can hurt you even as they help you. They're fun to do, but they're harder to sell than solo novels. If you get one with a big-name author and no one has ever heard of you, the chances are the book will sell pretty well and you'll make some money, but you'll do ninety percent of the work and even though a lot of people will read the book, no one will know who you are. If you get one and you are the big-name author, the collaboration...

How to Create a Character

No matter what sort of fiction you're writing, you're going to have to populate your story with characters, and a lot of them, if not all of them, you're going to have to create from scratch. unfortunately - or maybe fortunately - there is no Betty crocker Instant character-In-A-can that you can mix with water and pop into the oven for twenty minutes. There aren't any quick and easy recipes, and I don't have one either, but I do have some things that have worked for me when creating my...

How to Make Every Story Better Than the Last

Plenty of writers get to a publishable level of writing, and their books become all the same, and more of the same. If what I'm writing now is selling, why change anything they ask, and it's all to easy to look at their financial success and say, Yes, why They're coasting, spinning their wheels and not going anywhere - yet because their books keep selling, they have no financial impetus to keep pushing themselves or making their work better. And you're saying, I should have such a problem. But...

How to Query an Agent

I received a letter recently asking if it would be better to send a humorous letter to an agent when asking for representation than a more serious one. I've included my response below, along with a sample query letter and suggestions that you might find helpful if you've reached this stage. There is no secret to getting an agent but persistence, sadly. I wouldn't recommend a gimmick or a funny letter. Every agent and editor and publisher I know is inundated by people trying to be different,...

How to Quit Your Day Job to Write Full Time

There aren't many things that go without saying in writing one of the few is that most people who write at all dream about writing full-time without the hassle of a day job, too. First let me tell you that if you're looking for something you can do to walk away from the job tomorrow, I don't have the answer for you. It took me about eight years from the time I decided that I wanted to leave nursing to write full-time to the day in November of 1993 when I was able to give away my stethescope and...

How to Start a Novel

You've decided you want to write a book. Terrific. Maybe you've even tried it a few times, but haven't gotten one all the way to the finish line. It happens. I had a slew of thirty-page novel starts before I finally found out how to start a novel that I could finish. see, that's the trick. You have to start the novel, but you have to have planned to finish it before you type the first word on page one. And that means laying some groundwork. What steps do you need to take to have the best chance...

Never quit

If your eyes paused on the little phrase above - after hard times returned - you have good instincts. If they didn't, you aren't paranoid enough yet. A writer is only as secure as his last book's sales, and the publishing industry has a short memory. You can never breathe easy until you have enough money in secure long-term investments that you're living off the interest. I'm not close. Frankly, I'm not even in the breathing-easy ballgame yet. If at any point in the game I have three...

If you cannot learn to listen you will not succeed Sacred Writism

The third leg of the Holy Trinity of Doom Signs is the phrase I don't believe in revision. Robert Heinlein offered some wonderful advice to writers, and created some brilliant books and some unforgettable characters, but he also offered this one piece of advice that simply leaves me open-mouthed with disbelief. He said, in his list of rules for writers, Rule Three You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order. This is a great rule if you're already writing publishable prose. But...

Keep the machine in good working order stay healthy

And you're saying, Eh Like . . . exercise and shit like that Oh, yes. Exercise and shit like that. You won't be lifting those bales and toting that hay, but to work your mind, your brain still needs a good supply of oxygenated blood, and healthy highways to get it there and back to the heart and lungs. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week or better, and a diet as low in animal products (none is best) and as high in raw fruits and vegetables as you can manage will strip the...

Know your characters

Don't spend half an hour going through your baby name book to pick out a name for your main character and call that character creation. You want to have a feel for what your character would do in most situations (though if you've created him well enough, one of these days you'll try to plug him into a scene and he'll look at you and say I'm not doing that.) And even while you're angry with him, you'll be thrilled that he's real enough to stand up for himself. And don't do a superb job of...

Know your conflict

This should be fairly obvious, but I overlooked it in most of those thirty-page false starts. Conflict is the engine that drives any novel, and if you try to write one without first making sure you have an engine, you're not going to get far. Write out your conflict. (Or conflicts.) And don't go for the big generalities. Gerri versus men, is a conflict, all right, but when you're stuck on chapter five and you look at your notes for something that will help you get back on track, something along...

Know your expectations

If this is the first book you've ever written, give yourself a little slack. Nice as it is to imagine that you're going to get a million-dollar advance, a movie deal from steven spielberg, and foreign sales in every language known to humankind, the odds are against this happening. First advances generally float in the 2,000- 5,000 dollar range, and most first novels sink without so much as leaving an oil slick on the water to mark their passing. While having high hopes can keep you going,...

Know your genre

In a perfect world, every book would be equally marketable to every publisher, and we'd all sell everything we wrote and make millions doing so. But we haven't yet reached that perfect world, so in the meantime, you're going to need to know what you're writing so that you'll have an idea of who might buy it. It really, really helps to know this BEFORE you type The End and print out your final copy. Or, worse, get fifty rejection letters from publishers who tell you they don't publish books of...

Know your world

You might think that I'm off on the wrong track already - that maybe this first rule is sensible for people who are working on historical novels or science fiction or round-the-world thrillers, but that it doesn't apply to you. After all, you're planning on writing a novel set in the town in which you currently live, using thinly disguised versions of your friends and relatives as the characters, so you don't need to research your background. In your town, which streets intersect lanes in which...

Life Changes Writing Writing Changes Life

I don't know a writer whose life hasn't influenced his writing. We all borrow heavily from the angst and joy in our past. I know that I've strip-mined large sections of my weird childhood in Alaska, Guatemala, Costa Rica and small towns throughout Ohio to fuel the collisions of cultures and people that fill my books. Trekking through the Costa Rican rain forest gave me the Wen jungles (though not, thank God, the mobile trees). My own kids gave me Barney and Carol, Kirtha, Karen, and bits and...

Listen to what your love is saying

You've been plugging along on the same novel for five years, doing a chapter a year more or less, writing and rewriting the first five pages, and frankly you're bored stiff with the people who inhabit the book. They lost your attention a long time ago, and have failed to do anything interesting enough in the last couple of years to get it back. But you don't want to be one of those writers who has twenty three-chapter novels stuck in a box under your bed (which is admirable of you,...

Losing And Regaining Writers Hunger

At the heart and soul of writing is the desire to write. And your relationship with writing, like all other relationships, can atrophy from the day-to-day wear of disappointment, from lack of support, from lack of feedback, from lack of incentive, from just plain exhaustion, and from a thousand other things. It can be as tough to maintain love in a long-time marriage to writing as it is to keep the love alive in any other relationship. Maybe that sounds improbable (after all, how can writing be...

Make dates

While it probably wouldn't make a lot of sense to take your writing out to dinner or to a movie, it makes perfect sense to make dates with a local writers' group, or with a friend who writes. Give yourself one night every two weeks, or one afternoon a month, where you can give yourself over to the luxury of talking about writing with other people who are equally smitten by this passion of yours. Use these dates as an opportunity to 'get dressed up' - that is, to prepare some writing to take...

Make plans together

Plan to do both great things and small things with your writing. Plan to finish a story for a specific market. Plan to complete the first draft of your new book before you celebrate your next birthday. Plan to research agents and publishers. Plan to enter a contest. Plan to compete for a writing grant or a residence at a writer's colony. Write your plans on index cards, along with the date that you planned them. On a second line, write in the date that you want to accomplish this goal (try to...

Manuscript Proofing

This is an essential, but technical, pain. Do it, do it promptly, and do it well. To make life easier on yourself, get the book Copyediting, A Practical Guide, by Karen Judd (ISBN 156052143-0). Read it, keep it by your side while you go through your manuscript, do the best you can. And be grateful that a real copyeditor will be doing the same thing. My eyes don't pick out a third of the things that a professional's do, but I do manage to find and correct some things that might otherwise get...

Middles

I'm in one right now - a middle, that is. Actually, I'm nearing the end of the middle, which in my humble opinion is the utter worst place in the universe to be. The loathsome middle in question happens to be in Curse of the Black Heron, but it wouldn't matter. I've never met a middle I liked, and if the middle weren't CotBH, it would be something just as bad, or worse. Writers come in all sorts. There are folks who dread the blank page, and who have an absolute terror of getting the thing...

Miscellaneous Questions

Why do you do this page - don't you worry that you're making more competition for yourself No. I'm my own competition. If I can write better books, I'll sell better. If I can help you write better books, you'll sell better. But the people who buy your books won't stop buying my books because of you. They'll buy both. I do this page because a couple of idealistic writers (one who has gone on to be phenomenally successful) took me under wing when I was a neophyte and told me how to do things...

Mistake Number Five I mistook business relationships for friendships and acted accordingly

Called me up from time to time to chat about the state of publishing. My editor and I went to a Ren Faire together and had various breakfasts and lunches together, and had a great time discussing my books when I sent them in. We played practical jokes on each other. I had fun. So I thought my publisher, my editor and I were friends. I made business decisions based on a sense of personal loyalty, trusted that my friends would not suggest courses of action that...

Mistake Number Four I overcommitted accepting too many contracts of the wrong types

Depending on the hole you dig yourself into, this can be a tough mistake to avoid. I was short on money - I'd quit my day job too early in my career, I was the sole support for my little family, and the offer of additional contracts for collaborative work seemed like a godsend - extra money for less work than I would have to do on solo novels. (And you're thinking, But she said collaborations are more work than solo novels. You're right. They are. But I didn't know that at the time.) At the...

Mistake Number Six I quit my day job too soon

I tell you this because its true, not because I think it will make any difference in your decision-making when your own opportunity to quit the day job comes. I should have been making as much money from royalty income as I was from my day job. I'm still not making that much money from royalties - if I were to follow my own advice, I'd still be working full time and writing on the side. And, frankly, I would quit too soon again, even under the same circumstances, and even though I know how hard...

Muse

FORWARD MOTION E-PRESS EDITION Copyright January 2000, by Holly Lisle Second edition March 2000 All Rights Reserved Book design by Holly Lisle Cover design by Matthew J. Turano Cover art by Holly Lisle Author photo Copyright December 1999, by Matthew J. Turano Published January 2000 Published by Forward Motion E-Press-- http hollylisle.com Copyright January 2000 by Holly Lisle. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in...

Of all the possible sins that the hopeful writer can commit The Big But is the worst You cannot make excuses for your

If someone who knows the industry tells you that your manuscript isn't right for Knopf and you need to submit to other markets, don't say, But I only want it to be published by Knopf. If a pro tells you that your plot is hackneyed and your characters are thin, But I intended it to be that way . . . is decidedly the wrong answer. If an editor tells you that you're going to have to give the story a real ending, But I want to leave the reader in suspense . . . is going to get you round-filed and...

Open Mouth Closed Ears

They sit in the front row of each writing panel at a convention with their arms crossed over their chests, smug smiles on their faces. They know all the answers, and they talk over not just the other attendees, but also the panelists. They corner the pros in the hallways after the panel is over and launch into long spiels about their future publishing career. Their entire goal in attending is to prove to the writers, editors and publishers there that they know as much about the field as the...

Pay attention all the time

Ask yourself why your neighbor leaves his house at 4 30 every morning and returns exactly one hour later, wearing different clothes. Why does that woman in front of you in the checkout line keep looking over her shoulder What are those teenaged girls huddled around over there in the corner of the park, and why are they laughing like that Notice people, cars, buildings, street names, the way light falls on water and on old brick, the smell of the earth by your back door on a hot day in August.

Questions About Publishing

How do I pick a publisher for my book The best way to find the publisher who will be right for you is to find the books that you read that are most like the one you have written (in genre, in style, in tone) and see who publishes them. If they bought books like yours, the odds are vastly improved that they will buy yours, too. Don't waste time sending off your book to those publishers who advertise in the backs of magazines. (Not even the ones who advertise in the back of Writer's Digest.)...

Questions About the Business of Writing

How do I keep my work fresh and my enthusiasm up sooner or later, everyone wonders this about any job, and writing is no different, as evidenced by the number of times this question comes in. You want to think you're going to stay as fresh on the fiftieth book as you are on the first, but reading through the works of some of your favorite authors who have been in the business for twenty or more years, you start noticing a tiredness of plot and characterization, a sort of gray sameness that...

Questions About Worldbuilding

How important is your story to you People hear the word worldbuilding and automatically assume that the discussion is going to apply only to people who are writing science fiction and fantasy - after all, for everyone else, this is the world they're going to be writing in, and it has already been built. That's not the case. You're worldbuilding when you sketch out a floorplan of the house that your character lives in so that you don't accidentally have her bedroom on the first floor in chapter...

Remember your priorities

This can be tough once you're well into the project, when it stops being one big hoot and starts feeling like real work. So give some thought to the question while you're still having lots of fun. Was your goal just to do a fun story with your friend Was it to get both of you published Was it to make both of you financially independent (Good luck if that's the case - collaborations are not usually the golden road to Mugging the Muse Writing Fiction for Love and Money riches.) Or were you aiming...

Scare yourself

If you follow my first suggestion, you are going to hit places where you cannot figure out how to write a scene. It will be too deep, too emotional, or too personal for you to want to tackle it, and you'll be tempted to take the easy way out - to skip that scene or to write around it. Don't give in to temptation. Now is the time to strip yourself naked and walk off the cliff. There's water at the bottom, and you'll discover that flying naked through the air can feel pretty good, and that you're...

Schrodingers Petshop Rules of Order

Here are the rules of order used at meetings - far better in my opinion than Robert's Rules of Order. 1) No throwing of objects not actually owned by you. 3) Absolutely no blood on the carpet, or on any latex flat-painted surface. 4) Anyone making allegations of questionable parentage about another writer must be prepared to provide proof. 5) Payment for all emergency medical services and supplies required during the course of the meeting are the sole responsibility of the person or persons who...

Schrodingers Rules of Critiquing

1) Critique the writing, never the writer. Never say, You are or You should Instead say, The writing is or The story should 2) Find what is right in each piece as well as what is wrong. 3) Don't say, This is how I would write it how you would write it isn't the point. 4) Remember that subject matter is personal. You don't have to like a story to give it a fair critique. 5) Remember what your biases are and critique around them. 6) Remember that real people wrote this stuff, and real people have...

So how can you avoid making this mistake

Look at the books published in your genre by the various publishers you're considering. Which of these books have sold well Which are labeled bestsellers, indicating that the publisher can successfully bring a book to the attention of the bookbuying public Which are stocked well by chains, indicating that the publisher can successfully negotiate the hellish computerized chain ordering system Which are on the shelves with other books by the same author, indicating that the...

Spend time developing new ideas even when youre working on a book

Keep notebooks, doodle out concepts, create characters you don't need and don't have any place for yet, write down lists of titles that sound cool, draw maps to noplace, develop lists of names. Keep plowing the field of your mind, so that when this book is finished, stories will already be growing in it and you will be hungry to write the next one. And the next. And the next. The writer's work is never done. (But if you set yourself sensible page limits each day, you at least get some...

Take planned risks

If you've always written in first person, force yourself to write a book in third person. If you've always kept your distance from your characters, force yourself to write one story locked tightly inside your main character's skull, able to use only that character's senses and knowledge. Write something from the point of view of someone completely unlike you - someone you don't understand and don't think you ever could understand. Write a story from the point of view of a dog . . . and not a...

The Perfect Busmans Holiday

I've been writing books under contract since 1991 - a happy state for me that has primarily meant I've known I had some money due when my book was finished. For a long time, I didn't see any real downside to writing under contract. I was writing my own stories, after all - my own worlds, my own characters, my own plots. Even when I did collaborations or work-for-hire, I was fortunate to be working in worlds or areas of worlds that I took a large role in designing, writing with characters that I...

The Rules For Exercise

Sit with your eyes closed until you can see these two people standing in front of their house. See where they're standing in relation to each other (near far ), how they hold their bodies, the expressions on their faces when they surprise each other on the walk. 2. Remember that one of them has something to hide and the other has something to tell. You have to know what these two things are before you begin. The two bits of business can be anything you like. 3. Remember that one character is...

The Writers Toolbox

Every profession has its tools and requirements, and writing is no different. Hardware and software are nice, but they won't make you a writer. These four tools, used regularly and with the best of what you have in you, will. English - If you cannot spell, if you don't know how to punctuate a sentence, if you aren't sure about grammar, if you don't recognize the appropriate place to break a paragraph or remember how to set off dialogue from narrative, then stop right here. You must know all of...

Them

I debuted well - my first novel, Fire in the Mist, won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel and I was a finalist twice for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer. My books are consistently rated highly by Amazon.com readers - many of them have five-star ratings. I've had wonderful reviews, I get letters and e-mails regularly that say I don't read fantasy but I read your stuff, and I read a lot of fantasy and you're my favorite author, and I've...

Two Nothing you write is perfect

I know this comes as a shock it's a shock to me every time I finish a book and find that it still needs work. But you cannot let the fact that your editor will want rewrites on what you thought was a finished book (and she will) shake you. No matter how good you are, you editor will be able to spot places where you were lazy or sloppy or didn't think consequences through carefully. She will find ways to make your book better. This is her job. Don't give her a hard time for doing it. Remember...

Use an outline

This is, I know, anathema to many writers. Some believe it makes the process of writing mechanical. Some think it removes the element of discovery from the writing process. But I've been using outlines since I started. I've only written one book without one (Sympathy for the Devil ) and I haven't found outlines at all restraining. Remember that an outline is only a map. If you find some unmarked side roads you want to explore once you're moving well, explore them. If you discover an entirely...

With Forever

They acquire an audience that keeps coming back for more. They make their authors money - the majority of fiction writers who survive on their writing income write series. But the same strong world and strong concept and strong characters that draw in the readers can start to feel like a trap to the writer. You're stuck with your world. However you made it, that's the way it's going to be. You're stuck with your concept. That's the tie that binds your characters to your world. But...

Work in other mediums

I paint I draw I write music and play the guitar (though not well) I knit sweaters and crochet lace and afghans I do beadwork. At times in the past I have spent some time learning the basics of how to play the hammer dulcimer, the cello, and the pennywhistle. I write a middling amout of poetry. None of these things is ever going to earn me a dime (well, maybe the painting might someday, and I have done the maps and such in some of my books, but in general none of this is going to earn me a...

Wrap yourself in Saran Wrap

But in is, in a goofy way, applicable. Do something with your writing that you wouldn't normally do, or wouldn't do in public. If you would never consider writing poetry, then write ten poems. If the very idea of erotica makes your ears turn pink and your palms sweat, write the raciest scene your mind can conjure up. If you only write literary fiction, break out and write the climactic scene from a murder mystery or a romance novel. If murder is already your...

Write about people you enjoy spending time with

This isn't the same as writing about people you like. You can really hate some of your characters, but still enjoy spending time with them, simply because what they do is so interesting. You don't use the same criteria for picking story characters that you do for picking friends. But if, every time one of your main characters walks onto the page, your first thought is, Oh, God - that old bore, it's time to rethink your cast list. Kill him, improve him . . . or just erase him.

Write every day even before you quit

If you aren't able to make yourself write regularly before you quit your day job, the odds are that you aren't going to be able to make yourself do it after you quit. Writing is a business for self-starters. It's hard. If you don't know beforehand that you can sit down and make yourself produce pages in spite of weariness, boredom, lack of inspiration, or over-abundance of distractions, don't kid yourself that writing full-time will magically cure this. The weariness, boredom, lack of...

Write outside of your field

I'm currently working on a novel that no one might ever see. I've been dinking with it for a few years, doing a couple of pages in my spare time or when I'm stuck on the books that I have contracts for and know I'll get paid for. It's not SF, it's not fantasy, and my agent has already let me know that although he loves the idea and the bits of it he's seen, it's going to be tough to move. I might not be able to sell it, and if I do sell it, I might make first novelist's pay for it. Doesn't...

Write what you love not what sells

Back to Hearts in Stitches, the one romance novel I tried. I had this vision of myself as a romance novelist, putting out one book every two months and sitting on a bank account that would shame Fort Knox. The problem with this lovely image is that I was writing romance not because it was what I loved with a passion, but because I didn't mind romances, and some of them I thought were kind of cute, and I thought they'd be an easy way to make a buck. Here's a little lesson I learned from that...

Write your ending and then write to it

You may discover, on thinking about your ending, that you can't quite get all the little ins and outs of that climactic scene or series of scenes clear in your head. There may be a lot happening - it can be very tough to keep multiple threads in a complex story straight. If this is the case, as it often is for me, write the last scene or couple of scenes, or the big climax scene, if you're going to do a bit of wrapping up after that's finished. Pretend the entire rest of the book is done,...