Writing tips

Ian Rankin’s 10 Writing Tips

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On Monday, Most Wanted publishing is announcing Ian Rankin’s newest book title and revealing the cover.  With a new maybe-Rebus on the way, I wanted to celebrate tonight with Ian Rankin’s 10 Writing Tips.  I love the bluntness of his advice, and that he recognizes there’s a lot of luck involved with getting published (look at how many publishers rejected J.K. Rowling after all). What do you think of the Scottish Crime King’s tips?

Ian Rankin Writing Tips

Image Text:

  1. Read lots.
  2. Write lots.
  3. Learn to be self-critical.
  4. Learn what criticism to accept.
  5. Be persistent.
  6. Don’t give up.
  7. Have a story worth telling.
  8. Know the market.
  9. Get lucky.
  10. Stay lucky.

Source: Guardian


Awesome Creative Writing Apps

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Writing AppsAs our virtual writing group closes up today (don’t forget to sign up or email me at breathingfiction at gmail.com or contact me through the Facebook page for questions), I was thinking of the different things I’m already using to help my writing along, and those things that I want to start using to help.  One thing that I have become increasingly dependent on is my Galaxy SIII.  Sure, I prefer taking notes in an actual notebook (I’m a bit OCD, too, where the notebook has to reflect the story or MC) and I write using Scrivener, but I often have my phone and not the other things I need.  To digitize and make things easier, I started using a few apps and I want to share my favorite writing apps with you.

Name GeneratorThe first one I’ve been using for years.  It’s called Name Generator and it does just what it says.  Select a country/language of name origin, choose male, female, or both, and select how many results you want.  It’s really simple, but I can’t tell you how many characters I’ve named with the help of this thing.  I often can’t think of what name works, but I have an idea of how I want it to sound.  Since it also gives you first and last names, you can mix and match to find the right combination.  I personally love it especially for side characters.  It’s fast and you can have endless results.



WriteOMeterI have been looking for a motivation tool to help me write.  While it’d be nice to have on my laptop, so many windows open, etc just distracts me.  I found WriteOMeter though and I love it.  If you put it on a timer, it’s mean to you and reminds you to keep writing.  It helps you set daily word count goals, project word count goals, and you can even put in a goal date for finishing.  I think this is going to especially come in handy when the virtual group gets in full swing.




WriterLast but not least is Writer.  It’s a fairly straightforward smartphone word processor, but it works really well.  You can have lists, numbered lists, and other formatted niceties that a normal phone memo pad misses out on.  This has already come in handy for me to jot notes down on the train/bus when I don’t have my notebook(s) on me.  If I get a mini-bluetooth keyboard, it’s going to be even more helpful.




Do you have a favorite app to help with your creative writing process?  What is it?


Writing Tips from J.K. Rowling

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Did you check out last week’s post about our virtual writing groups? Don’t forget to sign up before Friday 15 March.

J.K Rowling Writing CafeToday’s featured author is none other than the creator of the boy wizard himself.  As everyone knows, Rowling got her start writing in a cafe in Edinburgh, hoping to turn her imaginings into something that could pay the rent.  What she gave the world was beyond magic, and it shaped millions of childhoods (and adulthoods, too).  While her adult novel may not have lived up to the hype, we can all agree that when it comes to crafting an enchanting story, Rowling knows how to do the job.  And it’s hard not to admire a woman who was once on benefits and now has influenced the lives of countless readers and encouraged many stubborn readers to pick up other books as well.  So, let’s check out J.K. Rowling’s 5 Writing Tips:


JK Rowling 5 Writing Tips

  1. Write in whatever time you have.
  2. Planning is essential.
  3. Rewriting is just as essential.
  4. Be aware of plot and pacing.
  5. Write your passion.

Join In – Virtual Writing Group

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Virtual Writing GroupI have posted a lot of writing tips on here recently, many from great authors such as Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon.  And searching for all of these got me to thinking about my own writing, and the people that are obviously interested in writing themselves, because each posts has gotten hundreds of hits.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to slack when it comes to my own writing.  I make my living partially on the written word, but not for writing novels.  And I want that to change.  Do you?

I propose then a writing group, virtual since this is a website.  This would consist of roughly 4-8 people who want to share work, get feedback, and help other writers progress.  Writing groups are also great because they force you to write, to provide something for the group to read.  I have been in a few in the past, and I dearly miss that now.

Why 4-8?  Well, reading a lot of work in one week would be difficult, so I propose 2 members of the group would submit 5-10 pages each week.  This means once a month you would get to have your pages read and critiqued, and then the other 3 weeks you get to help out the others in your group.

What if more than that want in?  Here’s where this can get really cool.  If we get a great turnout, I can split off people into groups.  Tell me what kind of novel/short story/play/movie/TV show you’re writing, and if you know anyone else who is submitting their name for fun as well.  Then tell me what part of the world/state/city you’re based in.  If we’re lucky, we can put you near someone local, but we’ll definitely put together groups with friends and similar writing interests.

How do you sign up? Right now I’m just garnering interest, but if we get a good response, full steam ahead!  Fill out this Google Form, then I will get back in touch with you.  And hey, if it’s only a few of us, we’ll get to work together!

Want to think on it? I will keep the form open for two weeks, until midnight PST March 15, 2013.  If you happen to stumble on this post after the deadline, please email me at breathingfiction at gmail.com.  There might be a group with space, or more to join in!


New Directions in Old Places – LTUE

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Life the Universe and EverythingLife, the Universe and Everything is a Science Fiction and Fantasy conference that takes place in Utah every year.  My good friend Heather Muir, a former guest-poster of this blog, was able to attend again this year.  I asked her to share her experiences with us as an aspiring writer and how attending the conference has helped her achieve those goals.

I’ve been going to LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything) forever and this year I was not excited. Last year I vowed I would not attend again. I was critical and annoyed at the panels, many of which are repeated every year. I had heard it all before. Don’t write a love triangle. Write what you love, not what’s popular. Don’t stalk editors in the bathroom. What not to put in your query letter. Wait thirty days, ninety days, a year before you revise anything. Never give up.

I had heard it all three times over. I constantly read all the writer, agent and editor blogs I can keep up with. I attend every conference I can afford, local and worldwide. I’m in a writing group, online and off. And I felt like this conference was for the total newbie.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that whining drowns out sense. As soon as I stopped whining, I had an epiphany. I was miserable because I acting like a newbie. I’d heard all of this advice ten times over but I was not following it. I had written three first drafts of three different novels and was working on a fourth. But I had yet to take the next step to revise. Or the many steps after that towards publication. I was not approaching authors because who was I to talk to such amazing, talented people? I was feeling like a newbie because I was acting like a newbie.

So this year, I decided not to be the newbie. I still attended a few panels but I spent more of my time talking to authors at their table in the dealers room, in between panels and in small groups in the hallway when I was lucky enough to squeeze in. I talked for hours with an old friend, catching up, recommending books and sharing what we were working on, which recharged my batteries more than anything. I spoke with random people I had never met before, practicing my pitch for the novel I had just finished. I asked every author I could for advice about revision (gulp!). My knees shook every time I approached someone.

By the end of the conference, I had a new friend from the front row of a folklore panel. She gave me her email and invited me to join a writing group.Two of the biggest names there remembered me from previous workshops, one of them remembered my story “fondly.” I almost squealed! I talked about gardening with another author. I sent an email to another writer, a follow up to our conversation, and got an email back! I shook the hand of a favorite local artist and made him smile.

Will all of these people remember me next year? Not without prompting for sure. Not without me gathering my courage and walking up to them with a smile. Did I learn anything new? Yes and no. But I changed my expectations. I was here to network and recharge my passion for writing. I succeeded in both ventures and am happy to say I will be going back every year. Hopefully with a novel to truly pitch. Besides, how can you pass up a three day conference that has a crazy amount of talent and community for only $30?!

Writing Excercises From Carol Lynch Williams

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I don’t know about you, but I am in a personal writing slump.  I have all of these great ideas (or what sound like great ideas to me) floating around in my head, but I always think, “Oh, I can start on that tomorrow.”  Well, no more!  And what better way to jump start some great writing then with writing exercises?  These are from Carol Lynch Williams, one of the most talented YA literary writers out there, and an excellent writing instructor.  Seriously, take a class with her and you would see.  She consistently gave the best free-writing exercises and doles them out for free on her and author Ann Dee Candee’s blog, Throwing Up Words.  Each Thursday she writes a Three Things Thursday post, usually featuring some great, insightful writing exercises to help you hone in on your main character, plot, and setting.  Below are some of my favorites from the past year. (Also, check out her list of Whys and Whats to really help you zero in on your book and its focus.) (Read either The Chosen One or Waiting to understand Carol’s brilliance.)

Writing Exercises Carol Lynch Williams

Plain text version:

  1. For the next few hours, view the work you do – whatever it may be – as the main character in your novel. How do you and your character see things differently? The same? How does this inform your writing?
  2. Using your senses, describe where you are now.  What about where your character is? It’s not a bad idea to use ALL of the senses (yes, all five!) while writing.
  3. When your character daydreams, what are her thoughts?  What is her biggest and best dream for herself?
  4. Look at five best sellers that are not up to snuff in plot and writing.  How would you change them and make them work?
  5. Look at the climax of your novel.  If you tell the climax (which should be about one chapter) in half that amount of space, what would you get rid of?  Try this exercise and see how this works for you.  Keep only the best words, the strongest words.  Make sure what you save moves the story forward to the end.  Keep what is essential.  Rewrite to make this work.