Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Branding for Writers Seminar: The Importance of the Platform — Sat. 10/17

On Saturday, October 17, at 10:30 a.m., I'll present "Branding for Writers: The Importance of the Platform," a seminar for fiction and nonfiction authors at Sycamore Hills Park Community Center in Avon, Conn. Sponsored by the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA), "Branding for Writers" explores the concept and importance of a platform, and how to create one that integrates and maximizes online presence. For questions or advance information, contact Ursula McCafferty at Or see me at Adele Annesi, Seminars.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Warm-Up: Planning Your Writing the Day Before

Like exercise (theoretically), writing needs to happen daily. One way to facilitate the process is by planning the next scene and how you'll write it. Hemingway used to stop writing before he finished a scene, some say before he finished a sentence. Another approach is to scan what you're planning to write next, consider how you'll approach it, and make notes on what you'll say and how you'll say it. Then when you return to the work, you have something to start with, like warm-ups before exercise or preheating the oven so that it's ready to bake when you're ready to cook. Preparing what you want to work on and how you'll approach it greatly eases the transition into your writing time and speeds the effort.

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that everyday when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck," from, Ernest Hemingway on Writing.

To put today's musing into action, check out the writing tip at the top of the list and let me know how it goes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Who Are You: Editing for Voice

One of the hardest parts of novel writing, especially in a first draft, is voice. Two or more characters often sound similar, either because their personalities aren't fully developed, or because the writer doesn't know them well enough. It can happen even after a plot treatment and character sketches. If so, there are things you can do to bring out a character's true self. Begin by asking what the character really wants and why. Then ask whom this desire affects, where and when in the story it should appear, and how—in what form—with dialogue, an event, both? Then drill down with your questions until you can't ask anything more without repeating prior answers. Problems with similar voices can mean too many characters, in which case, you can consider combining several into a composite. This makes a tighter and more dramatic plot. Problems with voice usually arise about one-quarter of the way into a finished work. When in doubt, ask a trusted reader to review your writing, but keep control over your work. Peter Selgin, award-winning novelist and author of By Cunning & Craft, says that when someone offers a critique saying that more of something is needed, it usually indicates another problem, often that there should be less. Character is a good example of that.

To put today's musing into action, check out the writing tip at the top of the list and let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tell Me a Story, but Tell it Well

As part of a writing-improvement campaign, I've been reading authors from around the globe, including major prize winners. I've been surprised by two things — unimpressive writing and the lack of compelling stories. It probably doesn't help that I'm reading these at six-thirty in the morning, but I've read other work at that hour and been riveted. I was surprised by the importance of these two basic elements of writing — style and story — but maybe I shouldn't be. What would we do without salt and sugar? The culprit in these works was a certain distance in the writing that translated into a distance between the work and me as the reader. In cases where the work was compelling, I didn't just read the words, I felt what they were saying — big difference.

John Gardner, in The Art of Fiction, comments on what makes fiction art. "Fiction seeks out truth. Granted, it seeks a poetic kind of truth, universals not easily translatable into moral codes. But part of our interest as we read is in learning how the world works; how the conflicts we share with the writer and all other human beings can be resolved, if at all, what values we can affirm and, in general, what the moral risks are." What's compelling about Gardiner's observation is that he validates the writer's daily struggle to make good fiction with eloquence and the appropriate zeal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fleshing Out the Bones

Maybe you've never thought of editing as adding or reworking detail, but under the headings of revision and rewriting (both part of editing) comes the concept that some aspect of the story isn't working because something is missing. Flannery O'Connor felt the same, especially about the strangely vivid people in her stories. "I can't allow any of my characters … to stop in some halfway position," she said. And she didn't. Her characters were fleshed out to the point where readers are often uncomfortable with them, but they're three dimensional and memorable, not clichés or caricatures.

Why do we do all this fixing? To make the work better, and to make the images we've created come alive. "Fiction is supposed to represent life," O'Connor maintained. "And the fiction writer has to use as many aspects of life as are necessary to make his total picture convincing." To achieve this end, perseverance is required. O'Connor felt that way even after working for months and still having to throw everything away. "I don't think any of that was time wasted," she said, believing that "something goes on that makes it easier when [the writing] does come well." And that's the sense of satisfaction and the purpose—for the writing to come well.

To put today's musing into action, check out the writing tip at the top of the list at the bottom of the blog, and let us know how it goes.