Questionable Future

Remember when this used to be a blog about writing? Me neither. It’s your fault. You’re not asking me questions.

If any of you have questions about writing craft, put ’em in the comments and we’ll start doing Questionables again. You can ask about publishing, too, but I’ve been out of the game for so long I have no idea what’s going on. My latest book got rejected, that’s how far out of the loop I am. But craft? I can still talk about craft.

But only if you ASK.

76 thoughts on “Questionable Future

  1. Hey Jennifer, I follow your blog and I’m commenting for the first time. My questions are about the writing craft. How do you come up with ideas for a new book? What is your writing process? Has it changed over the years? Do you have a daily word count? Any advice for beating writers block.
    I can’t figure out how to plot or outline my WIP. I’ve read the 3 act structure and even tried beat sheets. It gets confusing.
    I know the questions are basic but I’d really appreciate your take on this.
    On a completely unrelated note, do you watch the Flash? Do you think Iris is a problematic character? She’s similar to Laurel from Arrow 🙁

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    1. I’ll do your writing questions as a Questionable, Lakshmi, and welcome out of lurk!

      I think the Iris actress was given an awful job–“I was raised as your sister, and now I’m your wife”–and is charming enough that she probably does better than anybody else could, but the Flash is just awful with women’s roles in general. (Don’t get me started on Arrow and what they did to Felicity there for awhile.). But I haven’t watched it in a couple of years, so I have no idea where they are now. I think the musical episode was the last one I saw.

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      1. Thank you, Jenny 🙂 I really struggled to get through Season 4 and everybody was making these videos about why they hate Iris.
        I’m camera shy so I may blog about it at some point.
        Looking forward to the next questionable.
        Did you catch Lucifer season 3? What are your thoughts about the Sinnerman reveal?
        I completely agree with you about Season 1 and season 2 was a wonderful surprise.
        Still cant believe I commented, disappearing for a giddy moment!

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  2. I can do small scale editing easily – I used to be a journalist and editor, and tinkering at word/copy-editing level, checking for continuity, SPG style tweaking and removal of excess verbiage come quite easily.

    But I find big-scale editing really hard – e.g. ‘does this scene work, does this character work, what happens if I take this out, put this back in etc.

    So my question is what are good approaches with over-view style review, redraft and rewrites?

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    1. I like this question. I have similar skills re: small scale editing, but sometimes I look at the big scale like “Do I really need this scene,” fall down the rabbit-hole and find myself wondering if I really should have written the entire book in the first place…

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  3. Yay and argh. I have a question, but I need to use examples. No flames intended.

    I tend to really dislike first-person pov because the works seem stilted and wooden in some way. They just don’t flow. The best example that I remember of this is Site Unseen by Dana Cameron.

    A quick search showed that the book got optioned and turned into a Hallmark Mystery, so I don’t feel bad for using it as an example anymore.

    Clean Sweep by Illona Andrews, by contrast, just flows. It’s quite action-packed but it isn’t stop-start. It doesn’t feel like something is lost by not having third-person narration.

    Now for the questionable:
    What are the technical differences in craft that make these books different? What causes flow in on style of first-person pov but not in another? To paraphrase Rocket Racoon, is it the vocabulistics? Help me understand, Jenny!!!!!

    Upon reflection, I’m aware that stilted and wooden might be synonymous, but that sentence didn’t seem to work without either word. 😝

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    1. Don’t worry about stifled and wooden: I never critique comments.

      And thank you for the questionable. I’ll have to go look at your examples, so give me a minute. Or many.

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    2. The only first person book I’ve ever been able to read was “Outlander”. I could hear/relate to Claire’s voice. I was actually disappointed when book 2 started out in third person. I think in first person that the reader has to be able to connect to the voice, otherwise, it just doesn’t work. Not a writer, just a reader. 🙂

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    3. I think the Clean Sweep series is amazing, because the main character is very charismatic and seems solidly imagined and written. So her thoughts never seem stilted or wooden, they flow and she seems real.

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    4. Hi, the reason I don’t like most modern first person is because it’s often badly written. It’s tell in the skin of show. For me, first person is difficult. If you want to write it, try switching it to third, or writing it in third and switching it to first. It should track.

      Jenny may differ on this, though. But as a writer and an editor this is what I’ve found.

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  4. Are you still thinking of compiling your writing book? Less the question you are aiming for, but…. 🙂

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  5. I write nonfiction (for work). But I find that many of the things you focus on–particularly the importance of the first scene, and timing–are helpful for both my written work and my presentations. I’m not sure that’s a question, exactly, but it would be interesting to talk about how many fiction rules also apply to non-fiction.

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      1. I write both fiction and non-fiction, and it is interesting what do and doesn’t apply to both. (For instance, my non-fiction doesn’t have plots, exactly, but it does have to have flow.)

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    1. I’d like to expand that question to how much can be applied to presentations too, unless that’s getting too far beyond writing?

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      1. I can do that, too. I’ve done a lot of presentations. The difference is that you’re dealing with visuals and speaking, so it’s a different set of problems.

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    2. What do you think about death in the romantic comedy? Not the hero or heroine, but someone else who matters. Does this make it something other than romcom? Would readers revolt? Have been studying 4 Weddings and a Funeral – the writer was apparently advised to include the funeral to balance the sweet. Does this work because it’s British (my roots too)? Ricky Gervais’ latest comedy series is about him contemplating suicide after the death of his wife – it’s sad but is billed as comedy. Had similar thoughts about the movie The Apartment which was tragic but listed as a romcom. It’s for my WIP – my critique grip is squeamish about a death I’m planning in a book that’s part of a romcom series and I’m wondering if it’s maybe too much for my reader?

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    3. Yes. I am reading Roald Dahl’s autobiography. It’s SO BORING. I’m 100% it’s the writing, and not the story, because I can see that there’s interesting things in it, but I have to force myself to keep reading.

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  6. Argh, I wish I could think of a question! 😄 But I always devour your answers, so I’m glad others have thought of some questions already.

    Back to grading papers and paying for Spring Break to start!!!

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  7. I have my MIL’s memoir draft. My question – Would it be a good opening for the memoir to have a “scene” of somewhat dramatic moment in her life? Then go from there. Make it a story of her story?

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    1. Sometimes, as a reader, I feel cheated starting at an exciting part that has to backtrack to then make that starting point either relevant, or timely, or a part of the story. Like, get your gears rolling then scale it back. I read a romance that started with a huge action scene that was great, that then backtracked to lead up to that, then skipped it in the middle so you wouldn’t be repeating it…. and it was just entirely irritating. Screwed with my flow completely. But then, sometimes it works. I’d love more detail on this as well, Jenny! Do or not do?

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  8. I am presently working on a manuscript that has been giving me hell. I know where I’m coming from and where I want to end, but in between are a lot of problems. The main challenge is to fill the time gaps, you know like “this scene is on Sunday and the next important thing happens on Thursday, but what did she do in between? She must have met the guy, she must have done this and that, it’s too boring to tell but how do you take the reader from Sunday to Thursday …?”

    I hope you understand what I mean. I’m not looking for general rules, but a few pointers would be nice, maybe also from a reader’s point of view.

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  9. I can’t think of any writing questions, but if you ever want to go back to analyzing TV shows, I’d be down with that 🙂

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    1. I love doing that. Maybe once I’ve cut Nita and got my brain sorted out, we can do that again. At the moment I’m not obsessing about any, but at the moment I’m not obsessing about anything.

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  10. Your stories are very character driven. (Yay.) Do your characters spring into your mind more or less whole, or do you build them up in layers purposely as you go?

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  11. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    For asking for questions 🙂

    SO much fun!

    I have a question about villains – and layering them so that they engage with each other and the heroine.

    Some say the hero (love interest) is the main antagonist, others say there needs to be a stronger antagonist because he’s not one by the end. What say you? What have you found works the best?

    And when you sit down to start a new story, do you plot out major scenes? (know them ahead of time) Or do you start with an idea and the ‘aha’ moment at the end? In other words, do you know where you’re going when you start? Or do you just start with two characters?

    Do more antagonists pop up as you write? How do you like to layer them? Do you have a limit/rule that you like or use?

    I really love how complex and layered your stories are. It makes them real page turners, and I never want to put one down after I’ve started. Everything fits like a perfect puzzle.

    Do you start out knowing all of the subplots? Or do they tumble and bump into each other along the way? Are there certain ways you like to develop subplots? Or do they just come to you?
    Are they villain driven?

    Thanks for listening 🙂

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  12. I’m looking forward to the discussions of all the questions posed so far, so I won’t try to come up with a question right now. This is terrific.

    But Jenny — haven’t you just made a lot more work for yourself?

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    1. Define “work.”

      Coming up with a happiness themed post every week is kind of pain because it’s not something I’m interested in. But it’s so lovely to read everybody’s happy stuff that I don’t want to stop doing it; I’m in that one for the comments.

      But talking about writing? Come on, I will grab strangers and explain the four act structure to them. Ask anybody who’s sat through one of my lectures, or the McDaniel students, some of who had to put up with me for two freaking years. I will be talking about writing in my grave.

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      1. I think you’re taking more trouble than we need for Sundays: I’d be happy with the same prompt each week. Your blurb can take us in interesting directions, but sometimes it gets in the way of what I’d thought I’d post. (Ungrateful, I know.)

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  13. Interestingly enough, the “He Wrote, She Wrote” blog made me a better *reader*. I was able to articulate what annoyed me about certain books. And *why* they annoyed me. It taught me a lot. No questions in here, just general praise.

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    1. I agree! I miss that blog so much. Something about having two different perspectives on the same topic helped me understand the craft a lot more.

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      1. The two different perspectives were ready to kill each other by the end. It was a fun blog to do at the time, but that was an insane time.

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  14. My family watched the movie Mortal Engines last weekend. (Not good movie with some great special effects early on – my sons, who chose it, wandered off before it even ended.) I went online looking for comparisons with the book by Philip Reeve that it was based on, and I came across an article that said originally he intended the book for an adult audience, but was asked by a publisher to publish it as a YA book.

    I’m trying to figure out what my question really is – I guess it’s what makes YA novels so popular nowadays with adults? And is the line between adult and YA fiction really there anymore, especially in fantasy and science fiction? I know that you aren’t a YA author, but with Nita, for example – is there a reason why your book couldn’t/wouldn’t be in a high school library? (other than perhaps sex scenes?)

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    1. Gooood question! It didn’t even used to exist as a genre, then became a thing. And the either the presence of sex scenes or the notion that they did engage in sex is the distinguisher…. but then sometimes it’s more, like the expectation of emotional turmoil, or heavier material. But then there are young adult books intended to dissect death and it’s impact. ….. is it just character age??

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      1. A friend of mine who works in publishing says the biggest line in the sand is the age of the characters. If the main character is clearly identified as not being a teen, it won’t be sold as YA.

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        1. I do see why publishers see that as a distinguishing line for YA, but there has to be more, or books like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Lovely Bones would be YA. TKAM is an required novel in our 9th grade classes, so maybe the only reason it wasn’t labeled YA is that the label didn’t exist when it was published?

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          1. No, a YA protagonist doesn’t mean it’s a YA.
            But a YA book has to have a YA protagonist because YA readers already have enough adults in their lives.

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  15. My question is about how to write a book in one PoV only, while still implying someone else’s PoV.

    I’ve seen it done (clumsily, I think) in many many books: the PoV MC will say something off-hand to a potential lover (John) and the author writes, “John paused for a moment before replying, as if her remark had hurt him.” That seems to me to be cheating: the PoV MC is meant to be oblivious of John’s real feelings at this point, but the author shows us the card anyway.

    How blatant do I need to be in using the PoV MC to reveal someone else’s feelings? I know I need to a bit, but I’m struggling between clumsy (as above) and so subtle no one else gets it. Hope this makes sense. Thanks!

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    1. I think KJ Charles is good at this – take for instance Any Old Diamonds. It’s all one POV, but I really like the way she reveals another character’s feelings and motivations. It’s all in the action (like Jenny’s previous comments on emotion living in the body).

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    2. I guess I would see it, as a non writer, is show it don’t tell it. S/he told it, she could have had it played out in their interactions, or her understanding or worry of his actions, be the thing that clues the reader in. That’s my thought, anywho!

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    3. I don’t see the problem with your example, and I think it answers your question: as long as the protagonist is a person who notices how other people are feeling, she’d be looking for clues in their body language, etc; and then would also learn to what extent she’d got it wrong by what they then say or do.

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  16. Oh I’m so pleased I actually know the answers to some of the questions!! (I’m a student of Jenny’s so it shouldn’t be surprising but I’ve got a brain like a sieve.)

    I have a theoretical question. I know you don’t write to other people’s outlines, but I do. I tend not to write a ton of description, and sometimes come up short on word count because of it. (Not enough action/conversation in the outlines a lot of the time.) So I end up making shit up a lot of the time – and so far no one has complained.

    What types of description do you think are needed in novels, and what do readers just skip over? Do readers like to know she has brown eyes and a dimple?

    (I almost never describe characters anymore, preferring to let the reader fill in the detail from their imagination – unless it has a bearing on the plot. And I might put in a line about location, if someone in the story has a reason to talk about it.)

    I guess this is not a theoretical question after all. I think I was originally going to ask a question that wouldn’t have been relevant to anyone else. That didn’t seem right so I changed my question.

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    1. I am at the point where I almost hate character description because it’s so…. clumsy/awkward/obvious? Or, it follows the “s/he’s so beautiful” gimmick/trope in romance. Like only beautiful people are protags. But, pretty sure I’m imposing my own subjective…. something or other here. I can’t think of the word. But my opinion is definitely colored by personal views, so this is just me as a romance reader. So not really a driver of rules. :/

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    2. I get annoyed when two-thirds of the way through, the heroine’s blonde hair or green eyes are mentioned, contradicting whatever I’d sketched in. I’d far rather such things were made clear at the start.

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    3. Description shouldn’t be jammed into one paragraph, certainly. But the opening scenes should be a platform to demonstrate what parts of the character the audience should know, just as you have integrated action and reveal for character introduction scenes in visual media. The audience notices things about the character because the “camera” shows them to us, and “camerawork” should always be motivated.

      I love visual media introduction scenes that draw out the reveal of what a character looks like. We experience their actions with shots only showing parts of them at a time, as the opening credits continue, and as the credits end we finally see our protagonist’s face.

      Apparently, there was an old theater trick that Shatner appropriated for Star Trek, where he would be the only one to act with his back to the camera, forcing everyone else to react to him, so he’d upstage everyone and build up to the moment he finally turned around.

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    4. I get annoyed when the characters spend a lot of time in self description as it so often seems forced. How many times do we go around thinking about our eye or hair color and weight and clothing – all in the same thought stream. I also think that it is very overused to have them stop to look at themselves in a mirror, with no reason other than to describe their appearance in detail.

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  17. I don’t know if you would consider this a craft question but here’s hoping!

    I used to love to write fiction – fantasy and romance especially. I hoped to publish someday but mostly I just enjoyed writing and living in those worlds. I went through a divorce awhile ago and it rattled some of the carefree feel to my writing but I carried on, believing in the romance and fantasy and hoping for love again. Two years ago, my mom died and going through that and the fallout with my relationship with my dad just broke whatever it was remaining in me that could pretend or believe in the dream. I sit down and try to write fiction and it turns into memoir or how-to or similar.

    I re-read Faking It this weekend and Matilda goes through something similar when she stops painting for herself and starts painting murals instead for many soul-sucking years. She is “saved” from this by her relationship with Davy. Reading that really struck me and then I read this so…

    My question is – do you have any suggestions on getting my real/dreamer self back? I had resigned myself to the fact that this is the new me, like it or not, but lately I am mourning that loss and just not feeling okay with it.

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    1. I’m sorry for your loss, Deb. My mother died just over a year ago, and I also could not bear to write for a long time. I believed it was gone, until last week when I unexpectedly began writing again. Don’t give up on yourself. Give yourself time. It takes a long time to recover from grief and trauma, but I believe it will come back for you, too, when your heart is ready.

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    2. Thank you both so much for the hugs and support and understanding! I will keep hoping and dreaming of dreaming. 🙂

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  18. I recently joined a writing group for practice and (digital) community. We do a prompt a day (or however often you want) and use it as a jumping off point for flash fiction/ a short story.

    Are there any prompts you recommend? And, in general, is there anything you recommend for trying to get the most out of writing exercises? Normally I write because I have a specific story I want to tell, but I think this group will help me a) actually write b) have fun and c) be less precious about showing my writing to people. All of which is nothing to sniff at. But if you’ve got additional advice I’m all ears.

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  19. Ok, publishing question: how do you get someone in publishing to read your work the first time? If you don’t have anything published, and you didn’t go to writing seminars or grad school, is there any way you can get anything of yours read without spending money on contests entrance fees, or on writing seminars and grad school.

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    1. I’ve heard that authors can get picked up now after they’ve self-published. Publishers are going to expect you to do a lot of self-marketing anyway, and anything you can do/have done to build an audience will be attractive to them. I don’t think doing an MA is likely to help you get published, unless perhaps you’re writing literary fiction.

      You should be approaching agents as much as publishers. They should all have guidelines on their websites. And, of course, look at who’s publishing/agenting work that’s similar to yours, because they’re the most likely people to appreciate your stories.

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  20. I do a lot of writing, mostly academic and non-fiction. I have often thought I had a good idea for a fiction piece, but as soon as I try to write any dialogue it crashes. Writing good dialogue is difficult. I’ve read many books where the world building and plot are great, but as soon as someone opens their mouth I’m pulled out of the story. I want to write dialogue like in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – so sharp, quick, and witty that it practically crackles. Crazy for You crackles that way. The dialogue in Welcome to Temptation is absolutely delicious. Any tips?

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    1. ARGH. This is the only one I can’t answer. Everything else about writing I’ve had to research and slave over, working out theories, but with dialogue, I just write down the stuff I hear in my head. My theory is that every writer gets one freebie–innate story structure, fabulous description and scene setting, vivid characters, whatever–just enough to hook her on writing, and then she has to work for everything else. I got dialogue.

      Sorry.

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      1. What a great gift. Dialogue is the smart stuff. I love that you can hear it and put it on the page. I may have to stick with non-fiction.

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  21. I know you’ve said that every writer has their own process and they must discover what works for them. Nonetheless, in your discussions of the craft of writing, you often speak of guidelines for writing or, at least, for the finished product. For example you speak of things to avoid, such as prologues or flashbacks. Have you encountered any occasions where the writer completely breaks the rules or ignores the guidelines that you’ve established (at least for yourself), and what shouldn’t work, works brilliantly?

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  22. I have been writing for a long time, started self-publishing in 2012, and last year went off on a stress-induced writing binge that still continues. Living in the imagined world is keeping me sane, if that isn’t entirely an oxymoron.

    I am trying, here and there, to actually market the stuff. 🙂

    My question is, given that I have not yet found an audience, is it likely to kill me that all my stuff is not in the same style?

    I personally don’t have a problem with an author switching styles (Laurie R. King and J. Crusie come to mind). But I’ve got romance novellas, romance-adjacent contemporary novels, historical novels. My published contemporary novels are in three (so far) different styles. Two are alternating-first-person POV. One is 3rd/omniscient. One is straight-up 1st person. Two WIPS are omniscient, one of them is a romance and the other is romantic but not about a couple meeting and falling in love, it’s about several couples already in love and trying to stay that way.

    Then there is the subject matter & protagonist question. I don’t write all M/F. I write a lot of nonwhite & non-straight characters. Some of the novellas are funny, some are not, some are graphically sexy, some are not. I’m writing the stories I want to read, basically.

    I’d like to think that eventually people will find the series and like it *as* a series, and be willing to roll with the differences in viewpoint and style in order to follow the (long) through story and the recurring characters. Is possible, or is crazysauce?

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  23. Writing process! I’d like to go over the writing process. I realize this is tackled a lot and by varying degrees from many different people, but I still haven’t found my sweet spot. Pantser vs. Plotter, some variation thereof? I’d love to hear about the process of taking an idea to a full on novel. Maybe using one of your past books as a guide from conception to finished product?

    Maintaining continuity throughout a book. How do you accomplish that task through 300+ pages? Do you use a special tool? Is it done during the editing process?

    Software! I’ve gotten THE BEST software recommendations from this blog. I’d love to hear about any new stuff you’ve found that has been a life changer or that anyone else on Argh is using, too. Having said that, I’m also interested to hear your thoughts on when software is helpful and when it gets in the way of the writing.

    Finishing. This is, perhaps, my biggest problem. I’m easily distracted by the shiny. How do you keep yourself focused on a single story through to fruition? Do you let some shiny in throughout to get it out of your system and then return to your main project? How do you refocus on the main project after a hiatus?

    I am SO CURIOUS about serials and can’t seem to find some really good information on what the deal is with these nowadays. I know that they’ve gotten big again since the influx of eBooks, but that’s, unfortunately, all I know. Are serials being rebranded as short stories? Are they still popular after the initial boom of readily available eReading material? And along that vein, what about short stories? Amazon markets them based on the time that it will take you to read it, so the length is all over the place where short stories are concerned. Are they the new serial? What’s their appeal? Are they appealing?

    And to coincide with all of that — because I realize those are somewhat more along publishing questions and not necessarily writing questions — what elements make a really good serial? How is writing a serial, a short story, or both different from writing a full novel? What elements — particularly in the romance genre — go into making quality written serials, short stories, or both?

    The habits of a productive writer. What are they? Realizing this is different for everyone, maybe sharing yours and then getting Argh’s collective habits in the comments?

    I think that’s all that I can come up with for now. Hopefully some are gems that will be turned into questionables. Honestly, I kind of hope that they all will be. 😀

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  24. I guess this is more of a comment, on your statement that your publisher turned down your latest book, than a question.

    I discovered your books fairly recently and I love them (which is how I came across your blog here). Not really sure if there’s hope for anyone getting trad-pubbed if they’re turning down your work.

    I read a lot, and have yet to come across anyone who writes like you. Your voice and storytelling are unique and wonderful. Reading one of your books makes my day brighter.

    Why not self-pub? There is a learning curve, but it’s a lot easier than writing a full-length book. And you already have a devoted readership, so you’re ahead of the curve.

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    1. Thank you, Selene, and welcome to Argh. You’re gonna love it here.

      Don’t get discouraged because one publisher turned me down, I’m not. The problem is that the new book is a departure from contemporary comedy and my publisher really wanted me to stick to what I’m known for, which makes publishing sense. It just wasn’t what they wanted from me.

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  25. A friend recently approached me about collaborating. I think we could be great together but she is not a writer. She is a devoted reader and I trust her judgment. We’ve actually devolved from a bookclub (we got very frustrated with the self help books others were pushing) that we now simply exchange bags of books with a heated, “I can’t wait for your take on THIS ONE.”

    What advice or resources would you have for someone taking on a partner? I don’t think she’ll be interested in the grunt work but in the plotting and world building.

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  26. I’ve got one!

    A couple of years ago I had a serious illness that, my doctors are pretty sure, left me with a bit of brain damage that’s presenting as aphasia. Before that I was carefully honing my craft and nearly to the point where I felt comfortable putting my short stories out on submission. Now? I feel like a toddler banging blocks together in a futile effort to channel Shakespeare.

    The illness led to a lot of rough life stuff and once the dust settled I tried to get back into writing since it had been my former happy place. It was TERRIBLE. The writing was bad, bad, bad. Worse, it was lifeless. Like, that little spark that had always made me happy to write and that made others enjoy reading my work was dead. There’s a part of me that still desperately wants to write (or at least wants the feeling of joy and effortless flow I often experienced back), but I’m wrestling with being bumped back to Beginning Writing 101, losing my “voice”, and losing the joy that came with the practice because it’s such a painful slog right now. I’ve largely rebuilt my facility with spoken language and with the writing needed for my professional life, but there’s something different about writing fiction that I can’t figure out how to get back. Intellectually I know I can probably rebuild some skills, but there’s a part of me that’s terrified that my own “Girls in the Basement” are dead and rotting in a buried corner of my brain.

    So… any suggestions?

    Thank you!

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    1. First, you are an every changing organism. You are not the same woman you were ten years ago, even without your injury. The people you dated then are probably not the people you’d date now. Your tastes in food have probably evolved. Where you want to live, your political outlook, your taste in clothing . . . everything changes. Everything. So even without the injury, you’d be in the same place: you can’t write like you used to because you’re not the same you that you used to be.

      So the first thing to do is stop living in your writing past. That’s gone. It would have been gone no matter what happened because you’ve evolved. I could not write Bet Me today if somebody paid me, and there’s actually somebody who would LIKE to pay me to write another Bet Me. I’m not that writer any more, not better, not worse, that’s just not where my head is, and trying to yank it back there would be bad.

      The Girls are still down there. The Basement got hit with an earthquake so they’ve got some recovery to do, but the key is to let them tell you want they want to do. If the stories aren’t coming, maybe they’re still clearing away the debris. Or maybe in your effort to be well again, you’re trying to drag them back to where they used to be, and they’re thinking that since everything is new again, so should the stories be. Or maybe they’re still just stunned.

      So stop trying to force yourself to be the writer you used to be. Start thinking about a character you’d like to write. If I were you (but I’m not, so not suggesting this), I’d write about a character with aphasia, trying to get back to “normal” and realizing during the course of the story that “normal” is a step back and she needs to move forward. Every book I’ve ever written has been about me without my realizing it; maybe you just need to holler down to the Girls to write about earthquakes.

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