Sentences and the Senses: Where Rick Bass Discovers Stories

by Marylee MacDonald, June 17, 2017 in For Readers, For Writers Doing Revisions

Sentences are where stories begin, according to Rick Bass, winner of the prestigious Story Prize. “What I’m hungering for as a reader is the visuals, the reminders that the world is a beautiful place, and I’m just trying to bring, you know, almost a painterly illumination on sentences, on objects, on subjects. And so there […]

Omniscient Narrator: How to Work with an Old-Fashioned Storytelling Voice

by Marylee MacDonald, June 11, 2017 in Point of View

The omniscient narrator stands above the story, has a view of everything and everybody, can go anywhere, move around, enter any character’s mind, travel vast distances and cover long periods of time. The writer knows everything and can comment and summarize and shift from character to character and place to place. The voice of the […]

Summary Passages Must Show and Tell

by Marylee MacDonald, June 3, 2017 in For Beginning Writers, For Writers Doing Revisions

Summary passages keep stories moving forward to the next “big scene.” A “scene” means the action that’s happening in pseudo-real-time. There’s conflict between people or between a person and a force of nature, and the author knows that readers want to see those moments dramatized. The protagonist confronts his or her nemesis or reaches a […]

“Show, Don’t Tell” | Still Sound Advice, or Lame Idea?

by Marylee MacDonald, May 27, 2017 in For Beginning Writers, For Writers Doing Revisions

“Show, don’t tell.” What does it mean, and should writers pay attention to this time-worn advice? In this post I’m going to look at three writers who use narrative exposition–old-fashioned storytelling–and see what they’re doing on the “show, don’t tell” front. Let’s start with a bit of background. Wikipedia cites a passage in a Chekhov letter […]

Story Starters Keep Your Story Ideas from Going Stale

by Marylee MacDonald in For Beginning Writers

Story-starters are the key to a writer’s long-term success, but what are story starters and how can you turn them into actual stories? Essentially, story starters are the notebooks writers keep about the things they observe in the world. These journals don’t gaze at the writer’s navel. They’re other-centered, outward looking, and curious about all […]

Character-Driven Fiction Takes Readers Back to 1968 | Sharon Solwitz’s New Novel

by Marylee MacDonald in Characters, For Writers Who Need Readers

ONCE, IN LOURDES author Sharon Solwitz has one previous novel, Bloody Mary, and a collection of short stories, Blood and Milk, which won the Carl Sandburg Literary Award from Friends of the Chicago Public Library and the prize for adult fiction from the Society of Midland Authors, and was a finalist for the National Jewish […]

How Much Should You Be Spending on Book Awards?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Writers Ready to Publish

Book awards can help your book gain traction. When you’re attending a book fair, having a shiny sticker on the cover draws attention. And when you’re setting up your author’s pages, featuring the “bling” can’t hurt. Several of this blog’s subscribers stand on the brink of publishing first or second books. Every one of these […]

What The Heck Are Likable Characters?

by Marylee MacDonald in Characters, For Beginning Writers

Have you heard the term “likable characters” tossed around in your book group or circle of writing friends? If you’ve been in the writing biz any length of time, you may have even received e-mails from agents: “I didn’t find the protagonist likable” or “I just didn’t fall in love with your character.” Fifteen or […]

How Do I Know When My Novel Is Done?

by Marylee MacDonald in For Writers Doing Revisions

Sending out your novel is easy. You can upload it to CreateSpace or fire off an e-mail to an agent. Whew! you think. Now my novel is done. It’s out of my hands. At one extreme are writers who send out work soon after they’ve finished a first or second draft. At the other extreme […]

A Productive Rant About Building An Author Platform

How do writers in general, but particularly late-life writers, establish an author platform? By “late life” I mean writers over sixty. By “author platform” I mean a soapbox that is slightly elevated above the crowd and that allows authors to shout to passersby that our books exist. That doesn’t mean the crowd will necessarily buy […]