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Writing and editing fiction


Groups, sites, advice, and resources for
fiction writers, editors, readers, and fans
(and with fiction these groups mix and mingle!)
Just below this section is the same directory but in alphabetical order, which (this is such a packed page) might be an easier place to find what you want.
Advice, sites, and other resources on writing fiction (alphabetical)
Editing and revising fiction
How, why, and when to use beta readers
(under Agents and book proposals)
Critiquing and small writers groups
• Sensitivity reading
Diversity or cultural appropriation?

Fictionalizing true stories and people
Life rights: Do you own your life story?

Should you hire a professional editor?
•  Pitch Wars (fiction critiquing and mentoring contests)
NaNoWritMo (National Novel Writing Month)
Blogs, websites, and online mags for literary fiction
Markets for novels
Markets for short stories
Market data for fiction
Literary journals and magazines
Assembling or appearing in an anthology
Short stories renaissance
Serialized fiction
Writing a fiction series
Fan fiction
Flash fiction
Flash fiction markets
MFA literary fiction vs. NYC
Interviews with novelists and fiction writers
plus interesting profiles and obituaries
Paris Review interviews with fiction writers
Genre fiction and fiction genres and subgenres
Mysteries, suspense, thrillers, crime novels, and cozies
The difference between mysteries, suspense novels, and thrillers
Horror fiction
Science fiction and fantasy and speculative fiction
Romance novels and novelists
Erotic novels
Historical fiction
Graphic novels
The synopsis
Plots, story structure, narrative arc, conflict, and suspense
Types of story, plot (archetypes)
Scenes: Show, don't tell
Transitional scenes
Setups and payoffs
Openings and closings (ledes and endings)
Great 'ledes,' openings, first lines
Favorite first and last lines
Endings and closing lines
Point of view
Voice in fiction
Creating interesting characters
Description, place, settings
Improving dialogue
Using a 'pen name,' or pseudonym
Fiction ebooks
Organizations and sites for fiction writers and fans
Online communities for fiction writers
•  Books for fiction writers and editors
(on another page of this website)
Books about editing and revising fiction
Books for and about critiquing groups

See also Fiction ghostwriting and ghostwriters
How to pitch a novel to an agent
What's the right word count?
Developing a writing practice (The writing life)
Selling your work to Hollywood

"Fiction is life with the dull bits left out." ~ Clive James
"Everybody knows what a story is until they sit down to write one." ~ Flannery O'Connor
"The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like." ~E.L. Doctorow

Should you hire a professional editor?

Absolutely. You probably want someone to do a quick read and give you general comments on structure, helping you find holes in the plot, problems with characters, etc., before hiring someone to edit sentence-by-sentence, as an editor for story structure might have you deleting or moving whole paragraphs. So you probably don't want to hire for a copyedit until the main text is laid down. EFA's directory of editors helps you find editors who are experienced with fiction (indeed, experienced with different kinds of fiction, as editing a literary novel is quite different from editing a gothic or zombie-horror novel --each group of readers has different expectations).
Thinking Fiction — The Indie Editor/Author Equation, Part 1 (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 11-27-2020) Indie fiction writing-editing-publishing is the new Wild West! How to avoid those messes and succeed as an indie editor working with indie novelists. Equally important, Part 2. "As most adults know, verbal deals have a way of drifting off course despite both parties’ best intentions, so it’s valuable to have a document that defines the deal, especially since some editing jobs can extend for months, and memories can get hazy...Learning from other editors’ advice and some bruising experience, my basic agreement is now a 50% deposit to reserve calendar time, and payment of the balance upon completion of the work but before I deliver the files." Check out this interview with writer-editor Haley by "Morgen 'with an E' Bailey."
What It’s Actually Like to Work With a Book Editor (Blake Atwood, The Write Life, 5-22-17).

Should fiction writers hire editors? (Writer Beware's excellent links, including some of these:
Should You Pay Someone to Edit Your Work? (Nathan Bransform, agent-turned-author, 10-5-09)
Should I Hire a Freelance Editor? (agent Rachelle Gardner, 3-25-10)
Should You Hire a Professional Editor? (Jane Friedman, Writer Unboxed, 3-19-10)
25 Things to Look for in a Romance Editor (Cate Hogan, fiction editor and romance writer, July 2017) The comments here apply equally for other genres.
Kinds of editors/editing and levels of edit (Writers & Editors blog)
The Doctor Will See You Now (book doctor Lisa Rojany-Buccieri on what book doctors can and cannot do)
Make Professional Editing Work for You (Allison K Williams, The Writers Bloc, 5-11-15) Why is professional editing so damn expensive? Editing is highly skilled labor. A good editor is a strong analytical thinker. They can say why your storyline isn’t working and ask the right questions for you to realize how to fix it. Alison offers good tips on how to strengthen your ms. so the editor has less to fix.
For editors and publishing professionals (a full section on editing, generally--not just fiction, on Writers and Editors website)
Editorially Speaking: How to Find a Book Editor You Can Trust (Blake Atwood, The Write Life, 1-24-17)
Tips For Editing Your Book (Joanna Penn talks to Natasa Lekic from NY Book Editors, about editing self-published fiction, 7-9-18)
What to Expect from a Professional Critique (Margot Finke)
See more such pieces on Writer Beware links.

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Editing and revising fiction


(much of it also useful with nonfiction)

Revision as essential for writing a good novel

"My pencils outlast their erasers." ~ Vladimir Nabokov

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. ~ Elmore Leonard

My advice to writers is to allow yourself a terrible first draft. Get the words down and then make them perfect. ~ Lisa Scottoline

Perfection is finally attained, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The wastebasket is the writer's best friend. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Writers: be savvy about your most important partner in the process: your editor. Editing and revising are crucial to good fiction writing, from shaping a compelling story to being sure the character's name stays the same throughout (especially after you've changed it two or three times). Learn about editing so you can edit yourself to some extent, and then so you can specify what kind of editing you think you need (there are different kinds and levels). You'll want developmental editing first, as story structure and character development are so important. (As novelist Anthony Dobranski says,"See what needs fixing in a broad sense before you spend time on details. Don't clean and dust when you might need to knock out walls.") Line editing follows--because many passages will have been changed or discarded in structural editing.
The Comprehensive Guide to Finding, Hiring, and Working with an Editor (Chantel Hamilton on Jane Friedman's website) What do all those different kinds of editors do? Know that so you know what type you need for the stage your manuscript is in. Excellent overview of the process. See also The subjectivity of editing fiction.
Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing by Tiffany Yates Martin
Storycraft for Novelists and Their Editors: Resources to Help Authors Get It Right (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 4-8-19). She recommends three books, explaining why: Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain; On Writing by Stephen King; and Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card. Card emphasizes four basic factors present in every story -- milieu, idea, character, and event -- with varying degrees of emphasis. "It is the balance among these factors that determines what sort of characterization a story must have, should have, or can have.”
Janet Burroway talks about Writing Fiction Q&A with Carol Saller, CMOS Shop Talk, Chicago Manual of Style, 4-23-19) A good writer must be a good copyeditor. Editing the copy is what writing is.


Fiction style guides

Do agents prefer manuscripts that have been reviewed by a professional editor? (Maggie Lynch on Writers and Editor blog, 11-22-22)

Thinking Fiction: An Overview of the World of Fiction Copyediting (Amy Schneider, on An American Editor, 9-8-14) A checklist of what you will and won't do as a good fiction copyeditor. See her entire American Editor series on fiction editing:
--Thinking Fiction: The Mind-Set of the Fiction Copyeditor (An American Editor, 10-6-14)
--Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets — Part I: General Style (Amy Schneider, on An American Editor, 1-19-15)
--Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets — Part II: Characters (2-16-15) ("Because fiction is by nature made up, there’s no real-world reference for its internal factual information — so keeping a detailed style sheet with as much information as possible about the characters (and other elements) is enormously helpful for catching inconsistencies." + "I find it extremely helpful to group characters not alphabetically, but by their relationships to each other.")
--The Style Sheets — Part III: Locations (3-11-15) "If the locations are meant to represent real locations, it’s your job to make sure they are accurate. If they are fictional (or fictionalized), make sure they stay true to themselves within that fictional world."
--The Style Sheets — Part IV: Timeline (4-13-15) "The timeline must be kept consistent with the fictional world of the story, and sometimes also with actual events in the real world. I’ve found that authors often have difficulty maintaining a consistent timeline."
---Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap I (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 5-15-17) To accommodate the tendency for an editor to "stop seeing individual words and punctuation" on a second read-through, and because self-published novelists usually have a low budget for editing, Haley relies on "a combination of editing software tools to tackle the nitpickery that would otherwise slow down the edit and distract me from the content elements no computer can address." Also, "the first thing I do is make a new copy of the file and rename it to indicate it’s an edited version. The author’s original is never touched again, and always available in the event of a document or computer crash." "Preflight" is the first of her four-stage work routine — preflight, formatting, editing, and cleanup. Preflight’s purpose is to set up the manuscript for reading: tidying up errors and inconsistencies, minimizing the number of elements your eye needs to attend to during editing. "Part of my rationale for not prereading a manuscript is to be able to see it as a regular reader would: start on page one and read to the end."

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Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap II (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 5-22-17) For those mechanical tasks, she uses several software tools (which she links to in ): Editorium’s FileCleaner, EditTools’ Delete Unused Styles, EditTools’ Change Style Language, EditTools’ Never Spell Word, EditTools’ F&R Master (find and replace), Paul Beverley’s ProperNounAlyse.
Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap III (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 9-11-17) Indie-author manuscripts do not come to her previously groomed and styled in-house, as manuscripts from publishers do. This round of editing is to format and style the manuscript in standard ways that indie authors seldom know how to do right (so this piece is, in a way, a checklist for indie authors who want to get things as right on their own from the start).
Thinking Fiction: The Novel-Editing Roadmap IV (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 10-9-17) Stage 3: Editing. Main edit. Second pass. Stage 4: Cleanup. Closure.
How to never forget you’ve switched off Track Changes! (Louise Harnby, Proofreader's Parlour, 11-12-16) VisibleTrackOff4 is an alternative TC on/off switch. You run this macro instead of using Word’s TC button.

Thinking Fiction: Fiction Editors’ Resource Kit (Part I) (Carolyn Haley, on An American Editor, 6-22-15). Reliable online dictionaries, style guides, and grammar/usage guides. Part 2 (7-1-15, software, specialty references, writing craft how-to's, groups/lists/forums/conferences). Excellent links.

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Thinking Fiction — The Indie Editor/Author Equation, Part 1 (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 11-27-2020) Indie fiction writing-editing-publishing is the new Wild West! How to avoid those messes and succeed as an indie editor working with indie novelists.
Thinking Fiction: Indie-Editor House Style, Part One: Establishing Parameters (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 2-5-18) Editors: The baseline of establishing an indie editor's house style: Develop your own house style and style sheet when working with indie fiction writers. Haley's references: Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, plus Garner's Modern American Usage (Modern English Usage in in its latest edition -- a wonderful reference for writers, too).
Thinking Fiction: Indie-Editor House Style, Part Two — The Author Factor (Haley, 2-16-18) Examples of why, when, and how to apply house style vis-à-vis author variables
Thinking Fiction: Indie-Editor House Style, Part Three — Themes and Variations (Haley, 4-12-18) The advantages of having your own house style: great efficiency (see example with em dashes and ellipses in fiction dialogue), some conventions Haley uses, and balancing your professional editing standards with a client's voice and vision.
Sample style sheet for fiction (Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, KOK Edit)
Fiction Plus (Chicago Manual of Style) Two or three dozen CMOS articles focused on editing for fiction, which is different from editing nonfictoibn.

Style Sheet: A Conversation with My Copyeditor (Edan Lepucki, The Millions, 2-7-14) An enlightening Q&A with copyeditor Susan Bradanini Betz, both for copyeditors and those they may edit. Also a useful style sheet. Says Betz: "When I copyedit, I get closer to the manuscript than I was ever able to as an acquisitions editor. I read every single word, looking at each word and tracking the syntax, not skimming over sentences. It’s not my job as a copyeditor to suggest big-picture changes or comment on quality, so I am focused on the story and the language at the word and sentence level. I keep the reader in mind and try to anticipate what might be confusing or problematic; I check facts and dates, track characters and events for consistency; and I do the most thorough read I possibly can, coming away with an in-depth understanding of the work that wasn’t possible for me in acquisitions." See more under For Editors and Publishing Professionals (another section of the Writers and Editors site)
Fiction Style Guide: Dialogue (Kristen Chavez, ARTiculate, 2-2-21) One of a series of blog posts gathered together in A Fiction Style Guide for Independent Authors

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Thinking Fiction: Three Types of Indie Editing Clients (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 5-19-21) The three broad types of indie authors are those who (1) write to market (in my shorthand, the pragmatists); (2) write to express themselves then figure out how to find their audience (the dreamers); and (3) write for either/both reasons and believe that everyone is their audience (the in-betweeners).
Thinking Fiction: First-Novel Flubs and Follies (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 2-1-16) The twelve most common craft problems of beginner-novelists.
Thinking Fiction: Does Spelling Really Matter? (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 2-19-21) "Consistency is the aspect that really counts in spelling. When there are multiple variations for a word, the editor’s task is to decide which one to use and stick with it. The purpose of consistency and correctness in any aspect of a book is to present a clean and professional product to the people destined to read it." Typos and irregularities distract readers from content, sometimes causing an editor to reject a book on the assumption that sloppy spelling means the author hasn't done a careful job in other ways also, or that getting the ms. into shape will cost too much in editing time. See style sheets. As an author, dazzle (or irk?) an editor by providing a style sheet to indicate your preferences.
Thinking Fiction – To Specialize or Generalize? (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 6-11-18) Haley writes about how she got started editing fiction, then upped her skills so she could work at a higher pay-rate; how then a "freelancer's famine' came and she strumbled while editing an academic nonfiction book. Her ruminations may help you think through your own training needs and approaches to getting work you will feel good doing--make you aware of the many ways in which editing work can vary, and how loving the material may help determine whether you specialize or not.
How to Edit Your Story Like a New York Publisher (Pamela Hodges, The Write Practice). Seventeen tips. "Edit for story structure before you edit for grammar and punctuation."
“Hazel and I’s puppy”? When Fiction Meets Bad Grammar (Carol Saller, CMOS Shop Talk, 6-6-19) 'In editing formal prose, we fix nonstandard English without hesitation. But in editing creative works, we often need to throw out the stylebook so a narrator or character in a novel or play can abuse grammar to good effect. The guideline is “believability”: would a character naturally use such a phrase, or would they speak more formally?'

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The Difference Between a Tag and a Beat (Michele Hauck, It's In the Details, 8-11-14) '"Tags and beats go with dialogue. Basically a tag is a sentence where you use 'said, asked, whispered, called, yelled, replied, answered,' any word that indicates someone is speaking.

A beat is an action.Your character is doing something while talking.' For more on tags and beats, see See section on Dialogue.
How to Move From First Draft to Second Draft to Publishable Book (Allison Williams on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-3-2020) When you’ve completed a draft but it’s bit flat, it’s time for the Story Draft: creative work done technically.
3 Ways That Writerly Grit Leads to Publishing Success (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-14-22) Three ways writers who’ll reach the finish line with their book, and go on to publish it, are distinguished by grit: They seek qualified feedback. They address feedback while holding to the vision (letting go of elements that don't work). They continually seek small refinements and improvements. In Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead, author Tara Mohr notes that it’s a stereotypically male thing to forge ahead with one’s big vision without seeking outside input on it, and a stereotypically female thing to seek feedback on one’s vision from any and everyone, whether or not their opinion actually matters.
Looking Homeward To Thomas Wolfe; An Uncut Version of His First Novel Is to Be Published on His Centenary (Dinitia Smith, NY Times, 10-2-2000) Wolfe's centenary, the University of South Carolina Press will publish ''O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life,'' a restored version of ''Look Homeward Angel,'' using Wolfe's original title. It is edited by a married couple: Arlyn Bruccoli, an independent scholar, and Matthew J. Bruccoli, a professor of English at the University of South Carolina and a biographer of Fitzgerald. The same publisher is also issuing ''To Loot My Life Clean: The Thomas Wolfe-Maxwell Perkins Correspondence,'' a collection of letters between Wolfe and Perkins and members of the Scribner staff, most never before published in their entirety.
8 Mundane Elements You Should Cut From Your Story (Jordan Rosenfeld on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-1-19) "Creating tension is as much a function of what you leave out as it is what you put in, but often we can’t see those extraneous parts until someone points them out to us or expresses boredom with parts of the story." By the author of How To Write a Page-Turner: Craft a Story Your Readers Can't Put Down


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The Book He Wasn't Supposed to Write (Thomas E. Ricks, The Atlantic, 8-22-17) A best-selling author submits a draft to his editor, Scott Moyers. "He had warned me, he reminded me, against writing an extended book review that leaned on the weak reed of themes rather than stood on a strong foundation of narrative," writes the author. The author did a total rewrite, which was easier than he expected, given good editorial advice. This is how the process is supposed to work, and this time it did.
3 Key Strategies for Effective Fiction—Derived from Neuroscience(Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog,11-3-22) Reveal vulnerability, raise questions, use the senses.
How Lydia Kiesling Fled to Write Her Next Book (Nicole Chung, The Atlantic, 3-2-22) Chung asks, What’s your revision process like? Kiesling responds: "At first I don’t read anything over, I just have to produce it. Once there’s a critical mass, a real trajectory, then I pay like $25 to have the book printed and spiral-bound so it feels more official, and I read through it. I will actually cut out sections and lay them on the floor, like the Little Women montage—I like to see if things could go in a different order. With this next book, I think I did three print-and-binds, and went through it that way. It helps me see what’s there."
Why did the editor miss errors in your book? (Lisa Poisso, 3-11-16). A realistic look at error rates in fiction, in particular.
Thinking Fiction – To Specialize or Generalize? (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 6-11-18)
Every Writer Needs an Editor, Especially If That Writer Is Also an Editor (Jessica Strawser, Publishers Weekly, 3-24-17) The editorial director of Writer’s Digest discusses how many revisions it took to get her novel ready for publication.
“I Do Not Have to Put Up With Editors Making Demands on Me” (Novelist Anne Rice, quoted by Jack Limpert on his blog, 5-17-18)

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A Former Literary Agent on Plotting (Jason Black, on his blog Plot to Punctuation, writes about Melissa C Banczak's advice on plotting), 8-29-16)
The importance of checking facts when editing fiction (Christine Ma, ACES, 2-12-18)
When Revising Your Novel, Look for These 4 Problem Areas (Kris Spisak on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-6-2020) Does your protagonist's fate result from choices, good and bad, he makes on his own? Does the story lead the way, not the characters talking it out? "What is more powerful: a line about a character realizing the solution to the mystery or a moment that allows your reader to have the same epiphany as your protagonist at the same time?" By the author of The Novel Editing Workbook: 105 Tricks & Tips for Revising Your Fiction Manuscript
His First Novel Was a Critical Hit. Two Decades Later, He Rewrote It. (Wyatt Mason, NY Times, 7-12-22) Many fiction writers wind up wishing they could redraft their early works. Akhil Sharma actually did revise his novel An Obedient Father. Among other writers who have revised previously published novels (discussed briefly): Goethe, Charles Dickens, Henry James, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Peter Matthiessen, and Joyce Carol Oates.
The Seductive Power (and Danger) of Metaphors and Similes (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-9-19) However seductive, metaphors and similes (a metaphor is an implied comparison, a simile an overt one) should be used as needed, and never forced. Their purpose isn’t to call attention to our prose but to help readers see more clearly.
Romantic Editing (Adrienne Montgomerie interviews three editors experienced editing romance genre: Jacquie Doucette, Lori Paximadis, and Jessica Swift, Copyediting, 2-13-17). She asks what errors they routinely look for and what resources one needs for editing romance.
25 Things to Look for in a Romance Editor (Cate Hogan, fiction editor and romance writer, July 2017)

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Copyediting and the Power of Word Choices: An Interview with Sara Brady on copyediting romance novels (Smart Podcast, Trashy Books #197, 6-3-16) Listen, or scroll down to click on and read a transcript. Check out the archive for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
Rewrite versus Revise versus Edit (Valerie Comer on the differences between rewriting, revising and editing, 4-11-13)
On Books: Visions and Revisions (Part 1, Alison Parker, on An American Editor, 8-3-16) Alison compares a children's novella, Sara Crewe, or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School , to the novel it became seventeen years later, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Between the novella and the novel, Burnett "was asked to turn the initial story into a play, which began its run a couple of years before she expanded her story into a novel." Parker uses the differences between the two works to bring the concept "show, not tell" to life for creative writing students.
Heller McAlpin's review of Harper Lee's novel 'Go Set a Watchman' (San Fran Chronicle, 7-10-15) helpfully compares it to 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' which it became. "When Lee submitted the manuscript of “Watchman” to publisher J.B. Lippincott in 1957, her editor, Tay Hohoff, astutely saw the germ of a better book in the childhood passages and suggested Lee rewrite the novel from young Scout’s point of view, set 20 years earlier, during the Depression. Comparing “Mockingbird” — the result of two years of arduous revisions — with “Watchman” demonstrates clearly just how important a good editor can be. Put simply, where “Mockingbird” beguiles, dazzles and moves to tears as it conveys core values of empathy and human decency, “Watchman” horrifies with its ugly racism, even as it emotes and moralizes didactically, clunkily and shrilly." A review worth reading, which may make you curious about the early novel.
On Books: Visions and Revisions (Part II) (Alison Parker, An American Editor, 8-15-16). About the recognition or revelation scene in drama — the anagnorisis: the point in the plot at which a character or characters recognize their or someone else’s true identity or motives, or even the nature of their situation.
The New Yorker Radio Hour (Episode 7, The Mayor and the Mormon Church, and Roger Angell), starting at minute 25, David Remnick talks to Roger Angell about editing fiction at the New Yorker and about his story "This Old Man," about aging and loss.

The Subjectivity of Editing Fiction

The Subjectivity of Editing Fiction (part 1) (Carolyn Haley, Thinking Fiction, An American Editor, 3-28-16). Using exercises split between technical errors (spelling, grammar, punctuation, factual accuracy, and consistency) and debatable errors (aspects of usage, punctuation, and style for which preferences vary), Carolyn compared edits of fiction by several professional editors. The results "showed a strong correlation between a high number of spelling, punctuation, and consistency errors and a low number of support tools used": "commercial software tools designed for editors (e.g., EditTools, Editor’s ToolKit, PerfectIt) or built into Word (e.g., find/replace, wildcard find/replace, macros)."
The Subjectivity of Editing Fiction II (part 2) Carolyn shifts to areas where errors are harder to define and recognize, and individual backgrounds come more strongly into play (especially debatable errors, such as hyphenated or solid prefixes and suffixes; hyphenation of compound adjectives; one-word or two-word spellings that could vary according to dictionary; and use or not of the serial comma). In this comparison, she learns that editors who comment more often, tend to miss more mechanical errors.
The Subjectivity of Editing III (part 3) (Carolyn Haley, Thinking Fiction, An American Editor, 3-28-16). Carolyn gave brief editing samples from an early draft of an already published novel to seven different editors ("a good way for authors to select the editor best suited to their work"). Catches on technical errors (e.g., misspellings) and suggested edits to "improve style" varied greatly. Advice: "Author, tell the editor what you’re looking for! Editor, tell the author what you intend to do! If your vocabularies and ideas differ, then dig a little deeper before working together." And give editors brief samples to edit before hiring.
The Subjectivity of Editing IV, Part I . In her second experiment, Carolyn Haley asked nine independent copyeditors of fiction for their definitions of copyediting. Their responses vary greatly. Editors who offer such a profile help themselves and compatible prospective clients find each other, while reducing the risk of surprises that could negatively affect a project or relationship.

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What You Need to Know to Edit Fiction (Erin Brenner, on An American Editor, 8-25-14)
Thinking Fiction: The First Pass — Just Read It! (Amy Schneider, on An American Editor, 11-10-14)
How to Edit Your Novel (agent Nathan Bransford, 5-3-11)
How Not to Write a Novel (Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman). 200 classic mistakes and how to avoid them--a misstep by misstep guide.
Author-Editor Clinic (Seattle-based online instruction in developmental editing of fiction and creative nonfiction--a structured approach to learning how to analyze manuscripts and to communicate with writers). See PDF FAQ about online classes .
Finding, working with, and retaining [ESL] clients, Part 1 (Geoff Hart, An American Editor, 11-25-2020) Clear communications, "Show, don't tell." Geoff is a scientific editor whose specialty is working with authors who know English as a second language. Part 2, 12-2-2020) Cultural considerations, rhetorical issues, editing tips.
Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle (Elmore Leonard, NY Times 7-16-01)
Editing Fiction at Sentence Level by Louise Hanby. How to self-edit your novel at sentence level so that readers feel compelled to turn the page. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of narrative and dialogue. Line-craft guidance, with examples from published fiction that illustrate the learning in action.
Two Books Every Author (& Editor & Publisher) Should Read! (An American Editor, 9-23-15). The two books, are novels by Harper Lee: Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird . If you subscribe to New York Review of Books, read Diane Johnson's review Daddy’s Girl. Read the comments, too, which point out that no editor can bring about the kind of transformation that happened with Harper Lee's manuscript without an author capable of responding beautifully to a superb editor (and putting in a LOT of work).

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Critiquing groups (and critiquing) for fiction
Finding the Editor Who’s Right for You (Elisabeth Kaufman, DIY/MFA, 5-29-14)
Writing A Book: What Happens After the First Draft? (Joanna Penn, 12-7-12) The editing process overall, in short.
On the Importance of Getting the Science Right in Your Novel (Andrea Rothman, LitHub, 4-26-19) When the World of Fact Helps Fiction Do Its Job
How to Make Sure Your Book Is the Best It Can Be (Joanna Penn, 11-27-11, explains her process of drafts, edits, beta readers, and revisions)
Copy-Editing and Beta Readers (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 12-11-10)
Editors (some of Joanna Penn's favorites, about how to use them, with an emphasis on UK)
Vetting an Independent Editor (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 5-3-12)

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Top Ten Writing Mistakes Editors See Every Day (Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It, Confessions of a Creative Writing Teacher, LinkedIn, 4-29-15) "Simply put, the story is the actual sequence of events as they happen (or would happen) in real time; the plot, on the other hand, is those events as they are edited, ordered, and presented in a prose narrative. The story has to be chronological, while the plot may be non-linear, and necessarily selective."
Manuscript Management Tools for Fiction Authors (and Editors) (Mary McCauley shares and explains her Timeline and Plot Tracker and her Character Tracker. "Whether you use these tools during your novel-plotting stage or when redrafting is up to you."
How Books Get Finished: Editor and Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to independent editor Alexandra Shelley and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discuss what it takes to get a book from first draft to "finished" book. (She Writes radio, 6-20-11). Excellent on process.
"Beginners," Edited: The Transformation of a Raymond Carver Classic (a fascinating feature on The New Yorker 12-24-07). The original draft of “Beginners” is compared with the final version of the story, retitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” edited by Gordon Lish, and published in a collection of the same name by Alfred A. Knopf.
A Book Editor Speaks: The Challenge of the First Chapters (David Carr, guest posting on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer blog)
6 Ways Copyeditors Make Your Book Better (Linda Jay Geldens, guest posting on Joel Friedlander's blog, 5-25-12)

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An Editor (Who Helped 'The Help') and an Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to Alexandra Shelley (editor of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help") and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discussing revision, publishing, and how to know when a book is 'finished' (on She Writes Radio).
Dear Author: Deciding on a Voice (David Carr, guest-posting on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer, 12-15-11)
Be Your Own Copy Editor (an excellent series of tutorial essays by Marcus Trower, author of a book I plan to read despite zero interest in the subject: The Last Wrestlers: A Far Flung Journey In Search of a Manly Art

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Fiction Freelancing: Part I – Proofreading for Trade Publishers (Louise Harnby, 5-29-12). " One of the dangers of proofreading fiction is getting so wrapped up in the story that you end up reading the book rather than proofreading it." And you won't be paid as much as if you were proofing technical material.
Fiction Freelancing: Part II – Editing Fiction for Independent Authors (rather than for publishers, a different kettle of fish) (Ben Corrigan, on Louise Harnby's site, 3-6-12)
Fiction Freelancing: Part III – Editing Adult Material (Louise Bolotin, on Louise Harnby's site, 5-6-12))
Fiction Freelancing: Part IV – Editing Genre Fiction (Louise Harnby interviews Marcus Trower, 11-2-13). Trower's tag line: Copy editing for fiction authors in general and crime writers in particular.
The Editor's POV (a forum for freelance editors of fiction and creative nonfiction)
How to Get Editing and Proofreading Work (Louise Harnby) See also her 8 reasons to create a learning centre. Or how to help your ideal clients find stuff

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On self-editing:
Marcus Trower Editorial (copy editing for fiction authors, especially crime fiction). He has an interesting series on Be Your Own Copy Editor (self-editing advice from the front line of fiction editing)
How to Free Yourself from Endless Revision (Audrey Kalman on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-9-22) The writers who get their books into the world are those who find a middle ground between refining their work and endlessly tinkering.
Lori Handeland's fiction self-editing checklist
Beyond Good Writing: Two Literary Agents Discuss What Matters Most (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-16-19) Mehta, a former acquiring editor of children’s books at Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster, does Q&A with literary agents Linda Camacho and Jennifer March Soloway, answering questions such as 'If you receive a project that’s almost but not quite ready to send to publishers, how likely are you to offer the author an “R&R,” or the opportunity to revise and resubmit? Are you willing to go through rounds of revision with the writer, and does this make you an “editorial agent”?'
Choosing Between Italics and Quotation Marks (Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog, 5-12-14). No underlining in fiction.
Self-Editing Tips: Part 1 (Sharon K. Miller, Publication Life, 5-30-15). Fascinating rewrite under topic "filter words." For example, she revises "Sarah felt a sinking feeling as she realized she’d forgotten her purse back at the cafe across the street."
"Sarah’s stomach sank. Her purse—she’d forgotten it back at the cafe across the street."
Are These Filter Words Weakening Your Fiction? (Suzannah Windsor Freeman, Write it sideways). "Filter words are those that unnecessarily filter the reader’s experience through a character’s point of view."
Avoiding echoes in writing (C.R. Hodges, 2-1-14). Readers can be annoyed without realizing why with "The repetition of a common word in close proximity," "The repetition of an uncommon word, especially in unrelated contexts, even if not in close proximity," or "Echoes of related sounds."
Name-dropping in Fiction (Carolyn Haley, Thinking in Fiction, An American Editor, 1-20-20) When the author mentions Biedermeier furniture, or a Tom Ford suit, or stopped at a Bi-Lo at the end of a long trip, is your reaction "Huh? What does that have to do with the story?" That's when to query the author about whether this helps and puzzles the reader.

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101 of the Best Fiction Writing Tips, Part I (Suzannah Windsor Freeman, Write it sideways)
Editing Fiction by Lee Masterson and Tina Morgan (Fiction Factor)
Black day for the blue pencil (Blake Morrison, The Observer, 8-5-05) Once they were key figures in literary publishing, respected by writers who acknowledged their contribution to shaping books. But, argues Blake Morrison, editors are now an endangered species
The lost art of editing (Alex Clark, The Guardian, 2-11-11). The long, boozy lunches and smoke-filled parties are now part of publishing's past, but has rigorous line-by-line editing of books been lost too, a casualty of the demands of sales and publicity?

"A good writer needs a good rubbish bin. My one strength as a writer is an awareness of how mediocre most of what I write is. Perhaps a good writer is a bad writer who is a better rewriter."—Richard Flanagan

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How Books Get Finished: Editor and Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to independent editor Alexandra Shelley and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discuss what it takes to get a book from first draft to "finished" book. (She Writes radio, 6-20-11). Excellent on process.
"Beginners," Edited: The Transformation of a Raymond Carver Classic (a fascinating feature on The New Yorker 12-24-07). The original draft of "Beginners" is compared with the final version of the story, retitled "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," edited by Gordon Lish, and published in a collection of the same name by Alfred A. Knopf.


Book Doctors. You've shown publishers your book proposal and samples and they've said, "You need to work with a book doctor." Here are links to some explanations of What Book Doctors Do. But then, how do you find a good book doctor? I know three of the editors who work with this group, and they've been editing manuscripts with a track record of success as books for MANY years: Independent Editors Group. There are many other fine book doctors. See section on Book Doctors: When and whether to hire an independent (consulting) editor or book doctor

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Sensitivity reading and sensitivity readers

Is My Novel Offensive? (Katy Waldman, Slate, Feb. 2017) How “sensitivity readers” are changing the publishing ecosystem—and raising new questions about what makes a great book. Albertalli totaled 12 sensitivity reads for her second novel on issues of LGBTQ, black, Korean American, anxiety, obesity, and Jewish representation. Some publishing houses provide their own sensitivity readers, particularly in genres—such as young adult literature—where the industry feels protective of its audience. The responses flow back to the author “as part of the editorial process,” and each reader earns a modest honorarium. The sensitivity reader is one more line of defense against writers’ tone-deaf, unthinking mistakes.
Gut Check: Working with a Sensitivity Reader (Jane C. Hu, The Open Notebook, 1-21-2020) '“Trauma survivors have been through enough—they don’t need me to get this wrong, too,” says Horowitz. So Horowitz decided to enlist the services of a sensitivity reader: someone who would review her work with an eye towards accurate representation of marginalized groups. The practice of sensitivity reading originated with fiction writing, and it’s still relatively rare in journalism. But working with a sensitivity reader can be an important step to crafting richer and more accurate stories.'
       In one example among several, Hu explains that writing an essay on trauma, science writer Kate Horowitz drew on her research and her own experience, striving to represent trauma survivors’ challenges through recovery as accurately as possible, but she also paid $50 for an hour of time with a therapist who specializes in trauma, who provided feedback on Horowitz’s discussions of current trauma theory and recovery. "Like fact-checking, sensitivity reading can help illuminate the truth by avoiding harmful stereotypes or mischaracterizations.... While writers sometimes ask trusted friends or colleagues to do a quick review of a piece as an unpaid favor, consider paying your reader for their expertise. After all, reading and commenting on a piece is a type of editing."
How Not to Write a Book about a Minority Experience (Tajja Isen, The Walrus, 6-8-2020) Publishers increasingly lean on outside experts (who are paid low fees) to vet books for cultural insensitivity. Is it working? "What they are is a piecemeal fix in an industry that continues to push minority voices to the margins."
Is it ok for a white author to write black characters? I’m trying. (Laura Lippman, Opinion, Washington Post, 6-21-19) "The world of adult fiction — so far — has not been roiled by the internecine battles of young-adult fiction, where “sensitivity readers” are common and writers have pulled books from publication after early readers complained about appropriation. But the subject is in the air, and it should be....Novelists have to be open to being told that they have failed and, in the worst-case scenario, caused real pain.
We need to talk about sense and sensitivity (Lionel Shriver, Opinion, The Guardian, 2-19-17) Some publishers now employ ‘sensitivity readers’ to check books for potential offence – a step that can only have a chilling effect on creativity "The texture of this procedural innovation is Soviet. If books don’t adhere to the party line, they’ll not see print, and the authors will be re-educated."

   In other words, don't let "sensitivity reading" become censorship.
What the heck is sensitivity reading? (Patrice Williams Marks, The Fussy Librarian, 7-26-18) "Sensitivity readers simply read for what they consider to be offensive content, misrepresentation, or stereotypes, and point it out. The author of the content chooses whether to use their suggestions or not."
•Renee Harleston's Directory of sensitivity readers (Writing Diversely) lists sensitivity readers who can help authors write more sensitively about specific diverse ways of seeing and being in the world. Editors of Color, Salt & Sage, and Quiethouse Editing also offer databases of sensitivity readers. (H/t to reader Lila Guterman via Jane C. Hu.)
Sensitivity Readers! What Are They Good For? (A Lot.) (James Tilton, PW, 8-10-18) If you’re an author writing a character outside of your lived experience, don’t lament the existence of sensitivity readers. Appreciate them; listen to them; and, of course, pay them. They deserve it.
Confessions of a Sensitivity Reader (Marjorie Ingall, Tablet, 3-8-19) Trying to make children’s books more authentic and less stereotype-ridden isn’t censorship. "Sensitivity readers (other, better terms include “expert readers” and “authenticity readers”) are representatives of an oft-marginalized group who try to ensure that the portrayal of the group—be it Jews, people of color, LGBTQ people, or people with physical disabilities and mental-health issues—is not dimwitted....“To be sensitive doesn’t mean being a snowflake. But it’s become an attack word now. What I want is to help you be sure that what you’re writing is authentic and sensitive to cultures not your own," says Kyle V. Hiller, an author and authenticity reader.
In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship? (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 12-24-17) 'Sensitivity readers are hardly new, and publishers have long relied on experts, like historians, psychologists, lawyers and police officers, to make sure a fictional narrative rings true.... “It’s a craft issue; it’s not about censorship,” said Dhonielle Clayton, a former librarian and writer who has evaluated more than 30 children’s books as a sensitivity reader this year. “We have a lot of people writing cross-culturally, and a lot of people have done it poorly and done damage.”'

And, from an opposing  viewpoint:
Who gets to tell whose stories? A literary debate for today. (Barbara Lane, Datebook San Francisco Chronicle, 5-6-19) " The term “sensitivity reader” sends chills down my spine, conjuring up images of thought police. We seem to be approaching a place where one needs permission to tell a story from a self-appointed group of arbiters whose own qualifications and motives are unclear."
Sensitivity Readers Are the New Literary Gatekeepers (Kat Rosenfield, Reason, Reason, 7-5-22) Overzealous gatekeeping on race and gender is killing books before they're published—or even written.
Let's Talk About Sensitivity Readers (Dhonielle Clayton, PW, 1-12-18) The COO of We Need Diverse Books argues that sensitivity readers aren’t censors.
Sensitivity Readers: Who Are They and Should Authors Use Them? (Reedsy blog)
Content warnings. This entry about a writing competition is interesting: Content warnings help get your work into the hands of readers best able to meet it on its own terms. "These requests will change as our editorial board changes. We appreciate your including these content warnings with your submission: violence & abuse—including sexual, toward children, & toward animals; racism; tragedies in marginalized communities; suicide; mental health issues; loss & grief; hate speech or slurs; and medical trauma."
I'm So Sorry, But Here's How Some Male Authors For Really Real Described Women In Books (Farrah Penn, BuzzFeed, 2-23-19)


Fictionalizing true stories and people

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Diversity or cultural appropriation?

It's not always easy to get things right.

Don’t dip your pen in someone else’s blood: writers and ‘the other’ (Kit de Waal, Irish Times, 6-30-18) While authors have always made things up, adopting a different viewpoint needs particular care and sensitivity to avoid falling into the trap of cultural appropriation. 'The dictionary definition is this: “Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.”' Informative, thought-provoking.
Why YA Fiction Is More Diverse Than Adult Genre Fiction (Georgina Torbet, Phantom Pen Press, 7-31-17) For young people living in an interconnected world, diversity is their reality, and they are waiting for their fiction to reflect that.
Is YA Leading Diversity in Publishing? (Alice Nuttall, Book Riot, 12-3-21)
Just How White Is the Book Industry? (Richard Jean So and Gus Wezerek, NY Tmes, 12-11-2020)
Diversity in publishing – still hideously middle-class and white? (Arifa Akbar, The Guardian, 12-9-17) Two years ago, we called publishers to account for the glaring lack of diversity in the industry. Pledges were made and initiatives set up. Have things improved? Find out about the new projects to encourage inclusivity in the book business.
Barnes & Noble 'Diverse Editions' Are 'Literary Blackface' (Audie Cornish interviews author L.L. McKinney, All Things Considered, NPR, 2-6-2020) See also HuffPost story. Barnes & Noble bookstores cancelled their Black History Month promotion after black authors complained that of the 12 books chosen for the campaign to celebrate black history, only one was written by a black author — The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. The store was going to showcase ”classic” books ― like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Moby-Dick, Emma by Jane Austen and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll― with new covers illustrating the main characters as people of color. “It’s literary blackface,” said black author L.L. McKinney (author of A Blade So Black and A Dream So Dark), who suggested the store promote diversity by featuring works created by actual writers of color.
Lionel Shriver's full speech: 'I hope the concept of cultural appropriation is a passing fad' (The Guardian, 9-13-16) Full transcript of the keynote speech, Fiction and Identity Politics, that author Lionel Shriver gave at the Brisbane Writers Festival. 'I hope the concept of cultural appropriation is a passing fad.' Read that, then this: Whose life is it anyway? Novelists have their say on cultural appropriation (Hari Kunzru, Kamila Shamsie, Aminatta Forna, AL Kennedy, Philip Hensher and others, The Guardian, 10-1-16) H/T Editors Association of Earth.
‘There Are Tons of Brown Faces Missing’: Publishers Step Up Diversity Efforts (Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times, 10-29-2020) The push in book publishing for more authors and workers of color hasn’t abated, and companies are increasingly making lasting changes to the way they do business. Publishers are launching diversity-minded imprints.
Are Native Americans Offended By Cultural Appropriation? (Will Witt, 5 min. video) Is it okay to call them the Redskins?
Publishing must make room for disabled authors - for its own good (Frances Ryan, The Guardian, 9-4-2020) We are the biggest minority in the world. Paying attention is good business. See also Ryan's book Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People
What The Controversy Over 'American Dirt' Tells Us About Publishing And Authorship (1A, NPR, 1-27-2020) Criticism of the novel stokes the debate on who the publishing world includes, and who it consistently leaves out. Who gets to tell the story? Can online reaction to literature act as a form of censorship? Or is it a valuable check, especially on a publishing industry that can't seem to get questions of representation and diversity right in its quest Character Profile Worksheetto sell books?
Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation? "There's a thin line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation." (brief video, The Talk) Give credit to your source when you adapt a recipe.
• Eliana West's Character Profile Worksheet (Writers for Diversity) And check out Eliana's Writers for Diversity Facebook group
Citing 'Peril,' Flatiron Cancels 'American Dirt' Tour, Apologizes for 'Serious Mistakes' (Claire Kirch, PW, 1-29-2020) Cummins will be sent out on the road again by Flatiron, which is going to organize town hall meetings.Cummins “will be joined by some of the groups who have raised objections to the book," says Flatiron's publisher, Bob Miller, who apologized for the various ways in which the publisher displayed insensitivity in its rollout of the book.
Will the American Dirt Fiasco Change American Publishing? (Laura Miller, Slate, 1-31-2020) Editors inside the biggest houses discuss what went wrong—and whether they’ve learned lessons from the controversy. ' “It’s a commercial book that was mispositioned as literary,” [one] senior publishing executive observed. Flatiron’s publisher, Bob Miller, essentially acknowledged this in a statement released Wednesday, noting, “We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the migrant experience.” This set American Dirt up for a degree of scrutiny to which most popular bestsellers are not subjected, at least not right out of the gate. “You can’t be Twitter woke and Walmart ambitious,” the assistant editor quipped.'
Authors Guild discussion. Would books such as Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (with the idiot Benjy's monologue) be subject to accusations of cultural appropriation today, asked writers in an Authors Guild discussion. Should authors be free to write "as whomever they want, but members of groups likewise have the right to criticize if they think their group was portrayed poorly"? As one writer suggested, "I must disagree with the notion that being a member of an ingroup automatically makes someone a good writer and that being an outsider automatically makes makes someone a lousy writer....Criticism is fine and should be expected. But it should be based on the work itself, not on the identity of the author." Sometimes writers writing about their own culture also create stereotyped characters. And wasn't the publisher to blame for positioning the book in a way that elicited negative comments and controversy?
Digging Into 'American Dirt' (Latino USA, NPR, 1-29-2020) A 53-Minute Listen. For this story, Maria Hinojosa spoke to four people at the heart of the American Dirt controversy: Myriam Gurba —writer and author of Mean— who wrote an explosive critique of the novel; Cisneros, who speaks publicly about the book for the first time; Luis Alberto Urrea, a Mexican-American author who has written extensively about border life; and finally, Cummins, the author of American Dirt.
Why Everyone’s Talking About American Dirt (Rachelle Hampton, Slate, 1-21-2020) The American Dirt controversy, explained. The controversy about Jeanine Cummins’ novel encompasses appropriation, cries of silencing, and four separate New York Times stories. 'At first glance, the criticism of American Dirt reads as the increasingly pro forma conversation about who’s allowed to tell whose story. On one side are Mexican and Mexican American writers asking why Cummins felt the need to tell this story, other than to individuate a “faceless brown mass” that she’s not a part of—simultaneously raising the question of who exactly sees that mass as faceless and whether it’s worth writing for them. On the other side is Cummins raising a familiar alarm on how conversations around cultural appropriation will eventually morph into censorship. In a profile in the Times touching on the controversy, she said, “I do think that the conversation about cultural appropriation is incredibly important, but I also think that there is a danger sometimes of going too far toward silencing people.” ...The public debate began with a [scathing] review of American Dirt by Myriam Gurba published in Tropics of Meta, an academic blog that publishes essays on a broad range of topics. Gurba takes to task not only Cummins’ identity—she apparently identified as white as recently as four years ago, when she wrote in the New York Times that she wasn’t qualified to write about race—but also American Dirt’s similarity to other books about Mexico that Cummins used for research, as well as the novel’s ignorance of the very people the book purports to represent.'
‘American Dirt’ is a novel about Mexicans by a writer who isn’t. For some, that’s a problem. (Teo Armus, WashPost, 1-22-2020) Another interesting discussion about the discussion.
Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature (Myriam Gurba, Tropics of Meta, 12-12-19) Anger articulate. Hampton (above) observes that Gurba was 'originally assigned to review American Dirt by “an editor at a feminist magazine”—later revealed to be Ms. While her editor thought the review was “spectacular,” Gurba wrote, it was nonetheless killed because Gurba “lacked the fame to pen something so ‘negative.’ ”
What About Your Grandmother, Jeanine? (Aya de Leon, Guernica, 2-12-2020) With that large an advance, why didn't you hire a sensitivity reader, this Latinx writer asks Jeanine. Why didn't (don't) you go visit your grandmother?
Speak For Yourself!: Cultural (and Other) Appropriation in Writing and Publishing (Trenton Galozo, Pub800, TKBR Publishing, SFU, 10-2017) Literature, visual arts and music are chock full of cultural appropriation, from established literary classic novels like The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, through fantasy and sci-fi, where the appropriation of culture is ubiquitous, from Picasso's motifs which originated in the work of African carvers through jazz and blues styles developed in the context of African-American culture and appropriated by non-members of the culture from Bix Beiderbecke to Eric Clapton.
Finding oneself at home (Caryl Phillips, The Guardian, 1-20-06) Both Angela Carter and Natsume Soseki found new insights into their respective homelands when living abroad. Caryl Phillips reflects on the role of the writer as 'outsider.'
The Dangers of the Appropriation Critique (Adrian L. Jawort, Los Angeles Review of Books, 10-5-19)
Sterling HolyWhiteMountain on Blood Quantum, "Native Art," and Cultural Appropriation (Sterling HolyWhiteMountain, interviewed by Matt Strohl for Aesthetics for Birds, 1-31-19) 'Blood quantum laws are based on beliefs developed in feudal Europe, when everything was about royal and peasant blood, and the idea of “blood” was used to consolidate power in the hands of the aristocracy. Those beliefs, which later became essential to eugenics and underpin the current iteration of white supremacy, were applied to indigenous people in the U.S. during the later treaty era, when the U.S. government was concerned about paying as little money to tribes as possible for these land transactions, if we can call them that. The simplest way to explain this is the government was only going to pay money according to the number of people who had enough “Indian blood” to qualify as being fully “Indian”. Later on, in the early- to mid- 1900s, many tribes adopted these laws as a method for identifying their tribal membership—a perfect example of how the colonized come to see themselves as the colonizer does....We get into trouble when we start using colonial systems of definition to solve our problems, because these systems were created in such a way as to be divisive, and this situation is no exception. To quote Richard White, “Americans invented Indians and forced Indians to live with the consequences of this invention.” ' A fascinating discussion and a long read, right down to Sterling HolyWhiteMountain's praise for the third season of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. "...one of the primary purposes of art is to show us the things about ourselves we don’t want to see. Blood Meridian is one of the greatest examples of this kind; I’m not sure anyone has visited the shadowlands of humanity and come back with literature so aesthetically remarkable, beautiful and troubling. Art is really the only place we can go for that kind of complicated honesty. If there’s a social function for art, that’s it. So, from a certain point of view, no contemporary male artist in the U.S. is more against the horrors of misogyny than Lynch, exactly because he shows us how awful it is, and he’s unequivocal in that judgement.

Missteps lead publishing industry to review diversity effort (Hillel Italie, AP, 2-11-2020) As debate rages around “American Dirt,” the bestselling novel criticized for its portrait of Mexican life and culture, publishers are pledging to change a historically white industry as critics question whether it can truly transform.
Resources for Thinking About Diversity (Dilane Mitchell, ACES, 2-11-2020) Five books that can help the reader see the systemic inequalities that built our society and economy.
Diversity Activities Resource Guide and Other Resources (Dealing with Migration)

Literary magazines and journals

"You don’t write because you want to say something,
you write because you have something to say." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Bookforum and a Bleak Year for Literary Magazines (Kyle Chayka, New Yorker, 12-19-22) A vital bellwether of book culture has been lost. Bookforum began publishing in 1994 and remained dynamic and influential right up until its closure....Criticism has a way of surviving despite a lack of infrastructure. The past few years have seen a profusion of Substack newsletters in which writers are free to rant at length about whatever irks or obsesses them at a given moment. There is value in this more independent, atomized model, but there is no replacement for institutions that cultivate a point of view over time. Magazines are curatorial projects, filtering and contextualizing culture through the personal tastes of their assembled editors and writers.
How the Literary Journal Landscape Is and Isn't Changing (Andrea Firth on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-26-22)
Lit Mag News Roundup Becky Tuch's free biweekly newsletter "covers the literary journal world (news, trends, controversies) and includes calls, contests, jobs and more."
NewPages.com . Browse the literary magazines listed in NewPages to find short stories and longer fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, essays, literary criticism, book reviews, author interviews, art and photography. The magazine editor's description for each sponsored literary magazine gives you an overview of editorial styles—what writers they have published and what they are looking for (with contact information, subscription rates, submission guidelines, and more).
Duotrope (large subscription-based online database of literary markets, $5 a month or $50 a year) You can track your submissions, receive market updates, find deadlines for contest submissions, etc. See Number of listings per category, with listings for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.
35 Wonderful International Literary Journals (Emily Harstone, Authors Publish) All of these journals are based outside North America and the UK.
32 Exciting New Literary Magazines (S. Kalekar, Authors Publish)
Seven Exciting New Literary Journals (Emily Harstone, Authors Publish) See more links from Authors Publish.
Balancing Your Submission Budget for Literary Journals (John Sibley Williams, on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-8-19) How to minimize and manage your spending on submission fees (use Paypal), maximize your profit, and identify a strategy that works for you.
Poets & Writers guide to literary magazines. Connect your poems, stories, essays, and reviews to the right audiences by researching over eight hundred literary magazines in our database. Here, you’ll find editorial policies, submission guidelines, contact information—everything you need to direct your work to the publications most amenable to your vision.
Lit Mag Resources You Can’t Do Without (Jenn Scheck-Kahn on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-19-18) Jenn is founder of Journal of the Month. "Literary magazines, also called literary journals or lit mags, are devoted to short-form creative writing. What distinguishes them is what they publish (a single genre or a mix of genres), how often they publish (annually, biannually, quarterly, monthly), and their medium of publication (print only, online only, combination of print and online)." Jenn writes about identifying the best lit mags for your writing, finding magazines open for submissions, tracking submissions, and evaluating responses.
The Little Magazine in Contemporary America edited by Ian Morris and Joanne Diaz (University of Chicago Press). An anthology of interviews and essays about litmags since "the end of the ascendancy of print periodicals," by 23 editors whose magazines have flourished over the past 35 years. "...a fascinating set of responses to the two great changes in writing and reading since 1980. The first is the internet, which has given a new face to the drive of letters toward action-for-change, enabling immediate distribution of readers’ insights in answer to the work of artists—and in answer to postings by other web readers. A little magazine today can speak to audiences who never read the magazine itself; they can gather around the magazine’s comment sites for warmth, argument, and validation. The second great change in the world of letters during the past 35 years is the transformative effect of creative nonfiction as a cross-genre mode. For it has encouraged heady mixtures and a renewal of rhetorical poise in the art of many fine poets and prose writers, breathing delight into the work of making it new."--from a review by Mary Kinzie, Northwestern University
Lit Mag Submissions 101: How, When, and Where to Send Your Work (Lincoln Michel, Authors Guild) How literary magazines read submissions; the 1% rule; why submissions are rejected; preparing your manuscript (send best work, good formatting, cover letter, submitting in tiers, dealing with rejection, resubmitting after rejection, etc.
Glimmer Train archives (many wonderful articles about the craft of writing) See especially Resources.
2018 Literary Magazine Rankings: Clifford Garstang's annual ratings of literary magazines in terms of Pushcart Prizes awarded for poetry, for fiction, and for nonfiction..
Where to Submit (Entropy's round-ups, by quarter)
Faster Times list (Lincoln Michel's list of literary magazines that regularly publish fiction)
Pushcart Prize ranking of literary magazines (fiction) Clifford Garstang's lists at Perpetual Folly, ranked according to number of Pushcart Prizes and mentions. Here are the rankings for nonfiction and for poetry.
PEN/O'Henry index of literary magazines
Bookfox's list of literary journals (ranked according to how many stories or mentions they've had in Best American Short Stories (BASS).
Literary Markets ranked by award anthologies (Mark Watkins' list, which includes such magazines as The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly)
Selby's List 2.0 (The Venerable List of Experimental Poetry/Art Magazines, curated by Jon Henson
The Best Literary Magazines & Journals (AbeBooks.com)
Literary Magazines, one section of 100 Essential Sites for Voracious Readers (Masters in English)
Wikipedia's list of literary magazines (periodicals devoted to short fiction, poems, essays, creative nonfiction, book reviews and similar literary endeavors which have published each year for ten years or more)
Canadian literary magazines (Wikipedia's list)
28 Literary Fiction Markets Seeking Submissions (S. Kalekar, Authors Publish) "Several of them pay writers."
182 Short Fiction Publishers by S. Kalekar on Kindle.
VIDA (Women in Literary Arts provide counts, demonstrating how much men are favored over women in the literary world). See, for example, Lie by Omission: The Rallying Few, The Rallying Masses. "The Paris Review’s numbers, previously among the worst in our VIDA Count, have metamorphosed from deep, male-dominated lopsidedness into a picture more closely resembling gender parity."

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Books on editing and revising fiction

"A good book isn't written, it's rewritten." ~ Phyllis A. Whitney
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (2nd ed.) by Renni Browne and Dave King. Two professional editors share their wisdom and good and bad examples of important techniques: show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view, the mechanics and sound (characters' voice) of dialogue, interior monologue, rhythm, variations in paragraph length, repetition, proportion, sophistication, and voice. Several people have recommended this as a primer on fiction writing.
Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon
Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell
The Language of Fiction: A Writer's Stylebook by Brian Shawyer
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell (emphasizes literary fiction, with many examples from The Great Gatsby
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Critiquing groups (and critiquing) for fiction

See also How, when, and why to use beta readers
Writing groups

How to run a fiction critique group (Luanne Oleas on Writers and Editors, 12-28-22)
What’s a Writing Group Good for, Anyway? (Meg Opperman, Part 1 of a series, Washington Independent Review of Books, 4-6-15) On the benefits of workshopping.
---What Are Workshop Rules, and Why Do We Need Them? (Part 2, 5-4-15) So things will go smoothly, the work will get done, and the person being critiqued will get something useful and acceptable out of it.
Accepting and Giving Critiques (Meg Operman, Washington Independent Review of Books, 6-1-15) Part 3 of a 4-part series.
---Critique Checklist, or, “Hey, Am I Doing This Right?” (Meg Opperman, Washington Independent Review of Books, 6-29-15) Part 4 of a 4-part series.
How to run a fiction critique group (Luanne Oleas on Writers and Editors, 12-28-22)
How to Find the Right Critique Group or Partner for You (Brooke McIntyre , Jane Friedman's blog, updated 3-1-22)) Has links to online critique sites. "Online groups typically run on a credits or points system, where credits are used to submit work and earned for giving critiques. Sometimes, the credits system also works in conjunction with a queue system (basically, your submission waits in line for its turn)." Prepare to put in some elbow grease into your search.
4 Ways to Find Critique Partners (E.A. Aymar, Washington Independent Review of Books, 3-10-16)

How to Critique Fiction (by Victory Crayne, with a checklist) This link is not working; I leave link here as a place-keeper for when it works again. The central question to answer: Does it work?
• The Women's Fiction Writers Association offers critique programs and craft workshops, including a Grabbing the Reader workshop.
Critique Match Search its database by genre, publishing experience, and rating, or create a public posting about what your work is about and the critique you are looking for.
Critique Circle (an active online writing workshop, with resources for tracking submissions, generating characters and measuring progress on manuscripts)
41 Places to Find a Critique Partner (Cathy Yardley, The Write Life, 10-29-19)

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4 Questions for… A Critique Group Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. One benefit of joining SCBWI is joining one of its critique groups (for books geared to different age groups, for both children and YA). The Authors Guild is also forming critique groups for these ages.
• With KidLit writers critique groups, genre matters less than audience level (PB/Middlegrades meet together, YA writers meet together, more effectively). H/T Marie Monteagudo @IndieBookGal.
3 Traps That Subvert Our Ability to Accept Feedback ( Lisa Cooper Ellison on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-9-21) Finding the right editor or critique partner is important, but so is being mentally prepared for the feedback you’ll receive.
In Praise of Writing Workshops [delete: and Editing Tips] (Necee Regis, Beyond the Margins,, 9-18-12). On the value of just listening, when it's your turn to have your novel critiqued. Illustrates a way of showing what you've deleted, which is sometimes interesting--and a way used sometimes to comment ironically on the thoughts you've censored.)
How and why to use beta readers (elsewhere on this site)
How To Take Criticism (Joanna Penn,, 12-13-11)
7 Stages of Revision Grief (Jordan Rosenfeld, Make a Scene, 1-21-10) From overwhelmed and defensive, discouraged and ranting, move on to relief, purpose, and revision.
Critique Vs. Comprehensive Edit: Which Should You Choose? (NY Book Editors, March 2016) What you get from a manuscript critique (from this firm), how long it takes, and how much it costs, and the same for a comprehensive edit. "Consider a manuscript critique an entry-level edit. It’s where your editor will look at your whole manuscript and show you the areas that need tightening up to make it stronger and more cohesive. You’ll receive actionable advice on how to improve your story in the form of an editorial memo....The point of a line edit is to deliver a story with fluid, flawless prose (or as close as possible!)."

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•  When Your Query Reveals a Story-Level Problem (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-6-19)  When novelists struggle to pitch their work, it may have more to do with the book itself than the query letter. Why to consider using a developmental editor to help with story structure and why intuition alone is probably not enough.
What to Expect from a Professional Critique (Margot Finke)
The Necessity & Power of Sitting With Your Critiques (Grace Bialecki on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-30-22) We writers know that critiques are an integral part of improving our work. But we rarely learn how to receive feedback or what to do after. Focus on finishing the project and how you’re going to get there.
•  How to Spot Toxic Feedback: 7 Signs That the Writing Advice You’re Getting May Do More Harm Than Good (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-8-18)  If you recognize certain characteristics in the critiques of your work, it may not just be inept—it may, in fact, be toxic.
How To Improve Your Novel: On Getting Feedback From An Editor (Joanna Penn, 11-8-10)
Manuscript critiquing: The inside story (by Sophie Playle, on Louise Harnby's site)

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A Professional Critique: What Should You Receive for Your Money? (Margot Finke)
How to Cope with Critiquing
Nina Schuyler's Hard-Won Tactics for Running a Tough Group (Nina Schuyler, CrimeReads, LitHub, 1-20-2020) A case study in dealing with a critique participant who turns off everyone in the critique group with harsh, unrelenting negative criticism.
Now that I've written my manuscript, should I get a critique? (Rainwater Press, and remember in particular that you'll get different reactions from different people)
How to Critique a Journal Article (The Center for Teaching and Learning at UIS)

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Writing Groups: Fiction Writers Wanted (Margo L. Dill's photo-essay on critique-nics and shop talks
Are you happy with your critique group? and Critique Groups, Part 2 (Suzie Quint, Falling in Love with Romance blog).
Choosing a Writing Critique Group (Writer's Digest) (10-16-09)
Find the right online critique group for you (Kate Reynolds, Writer's Digest, 3-11-08)
Critique Groups and Writers' Groups (WritingWorld.com), part 3 of Fundamentals of Fiction
On finding those pesky critique groups (Advanced Fiction Writing, which suggests that pre-published authors also check out Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Author!
You can find leads to many more by merely googling "fiction critique groups." How did you find your critique group, and is there one you recommend? Here are a few we found online (and know nothing about, so this is NOT a recommendation):
Critters Workshop, a member of the Critique.org network of workshops for creative endeavors
Maryland Writers' Association critique groups
The Novel Workshop (a peer review group for fiction writers)


How and why to use beta readers (under Agents and book proposals)



Writing Alone and with Others by Pat Schneider (among other things, including providing writing exercises, describes the widely used Amherst Writers and Artists workshop method)
Writing Alone, Writing Together: A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups by Judy Reeves (full of practical advice and insights)
The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback by Becky Levine
Coffee and Ink: How a Writers Group Can Nourish Your Creativity (by the Monday Night Writers Group, with writing prompts for creative writing groups)
First Page Critiques (Jane Friedman's blog) You can learn a lot just by reading the brief descriptions of each of these critiques. Example: "Rule No. 1 for flashbacks: until and unless you’ve invested us in a scene, don’t flash back (or away) from it! The point of a flashback is to illuminate the scene from which it digresses, to add dimension and tension to it."
Oops! Famously Scathing Reviews of Classic Books From The Times’s Archive (Tina Jordan, NY Times, 3-9-19) We called "Sister Carrie" a book "one can get along very well without reading," dismissed "Lolita" as "dull, dull, dull," and had nothing nice to say about "Howards End." What can we say? We don't always get it right. Here's a look back at some of our most memorable misses. "The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger (1951) “This Salinger, he’s a short-story guy.”

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Pitch Wars and Pitch Parties

Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better.


Pitch Wars Comes to an End (Joanne O’Sullivan, PW, 3-1-22) After 10 years, popular mentoring program Pitch Wars and contest #PitMad drew to a close on February 15 with an announcement on Twitter. The news was met with surprise and an outpouring of gratitude by those who found writing community, publishing success, or both through the initiatives. Founder Brenda Drake estimates that the program and contests resulted in nearly 500 authors connecting with agents and launching careers.  (A long, interesting history of Pitch Wars, including who benefited from it and how. Agent Peter Knapp said, "While Pitch Wars has been one of the better-known showcases, a whole host of other showcases and contests have formed over the last decade, such as the #DVpit Twitter contest." Among the other notables are the #ReviPit contest, WriteMentor, Author Mentor Match, and Diverse Voices, Inc., a nonprofit mentoring program.) On Twitter, Sarah Remy (@sarahremywrites) lists other opportunities in 2022: FEB 17 #PBPitch FEB 24 #SFFPit MAR 17 #RevPit APR 01 #CookiePitch APR 14 #LGBTNPit MAY 05 #APIPit MAY #PitDark JUN 23 #PitchDis AUG #DVpit OCT 05 #KidLitGN
Pitch WarsThe Official Site of #PitchWars & #PitMad Contests. Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase. The mentor also helps edit their mentee’s pitch for the contest and their query letter for submitting to agents. Pitch Wars seems to work particularly for YA novels. Launched by Brenda Drake. 

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Complete calendar of 2021 Twitter pitch parties and contests 2021 (Nadine Avola's site, resources for YA readers and writers)
Dispatches from the Trenches: Pitch Wars (Joanna MacKenzie, Nelson Agency, 2-19-18) "There were over 70 agents participating in this year’s ‘Wars, and we were battling it out over 50 Adult projects, 42 Middle-Grade offering, and 83 YA submissions. It was about as close as any of us would get to a IRL version of The Hunger Games. For those unfamiliar with PitchWars, it an ingenious program that matches unpublished authors with published author mentors who work to hone a manuscript over the course of a few months and then present those projects to a group of invited agents for a first look. Useful tips on positioning, hook/high concept, killer opening, and voice.
#PitMad #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch. All genres/categories are welcomed. #PitMad occurs quarterly.
Everything You Need to Know About #PitMad and 5 Publishers Seeking Submissions (Holly Garcia, Authors Publish) "#PitMad is a Twitter event (established in 2012) occurring on a quarterly basis where authors, not represented by a literary agent, are challenged to condense a pitch for their manuscript into the length of a tweet....Twitter is all about the hashtags. There are two hashtags required to participate in PitMad, one of which is #PitMad. In addition, there are three sub-hashtags categories: Age Category, Genre/Sub-Genre, and Optional hashtags....For every legitimate agent, editor, or publisher, there are equal amounts of vanity presses.
New Approaches to Find Agents (Cecilia Aragon, Stage 5 of the 2 Stages of Memoir Writing). 'I participated in Pitch Madness, also known as #PitMad, a “pitch party on Twitter,” where over a 12-hour period of a specific day, writers tweet 280-character pitches for their “completed, polished, unpublished” manuscripts.... I had two, the memoir and the middle grade novel.' A first-hand account...
Good News & Bad News: Trends in Pitch Wars submissions (author Michelle Hazen, 8-9-16) Good tips in general for fiction writing (especially of what not to do).
Pitch Wars Success Stories
Pitch Wars Submission FAQ
Good News & Bad News: Trends in Pitch Wars submissions (Michele Hazen, 8-9-16) Do's and Don'ts, for those entering the contest.
The Plight of Pitch Wars (J. Avery, Quilette, 2-9-19) "And so, we lose another beloved mainstay of the online writing community to the social justice mob. Who’s to say how this new iteration of ideologically vetted Pitch Wars will fare?"

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7 Things I Learned as a Pitch Wars Mentor (Dan Koboldt, 11-10-14) Interesting account of the Pitch Wars process.
The Fruits of Pitch Wars (Rajani LaRocca, a mentee in 2017, the next year a mentor). Comments about the process from several of the mentees in 2017.
6 Reasons Why Every Writer Should Enter Pitch Wars Next Year (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 12-2-15)
Let's talk about Pitch Wars (Don't let unhelpful thoughts derail you) (Jessica Bayliss Writes, 7-3-17) Pep talk for those lacking confidence.

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Book Doctors. You've shown publishers your book proposal and samples and they've said, "You need to work with a book doctor." Here are links to some explanations of What Book Doctors Do. But then, how do you find a good book doctor? I know three of the editors who work with this group, and they've been editing manuscripts with a track record of success as books for MANY years: Independent Editors Group. There are many other fine book doctors. See section on Book Doctors: When and whether to hire an independent (consulting) editor or book doctor

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NaNoWritMo (National Novel Writing Month)

This annual internet-based creative writing project is held every November. Participants set aside a month to write a novel as quickly as possible, giving "yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality." Proceeds go to the Office of Letters and Light to pay for the Young Writer's Program—a creative writing program that reaches 2,500 classrooms, 500 communities, and 200 libraries worldwide. Write 50,000 words in a month(November), submitting your words online (scrambled) periodically; nonfiction writers try this popular event to indulge their fantasy that they have a novel in them, and sometimes they do! Whether it's publishable is another thing, but just writing the thing is a kick and gets the creative juices flowing.

•  I Wrote A Novel, Now What? NaNo's page of advice with suggestions for revising
What NaNoWritMo is about
NaNoWritMo described in 9 Handy Online Tools for Writers
• Info about Script Frenzy, an April challenge to write 100 pages of original scripted material in 30 days (screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels all welcome).


Successfully published NaNoWritMo novels:
---The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill

---Cinder, book 1 of The Lunar Chronicles, which includes two more winners, Scarlet and Cress by the same author, Marissa Meyer.
--- The Compound by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, about a family locked away in an underground bunker, received the Bank Street Award for Best Children’s Book of the Year in 2009.
--- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
--- The God Patent by Ransom Stephens. The “tale is a science-versus-religion battle over a couple of patents that promise to unlock the secrets of the universe and turn the power of God into an ExxonMobil wet dream.”
--- The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood. Novelist Sam Wood cannot connect after the death of his daughter Franny and begins to waste away.
--- Livvie Owen Lived Here by Sarah Dooley, the story of an autistic 14-year-old
--- Losing Faith by Denise Jaden, a middle-school book in which a girl named Brie learns that a religious cult may have been behind the death of her sister Faith
---The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

--- Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart, a funny novel about a brainy and competitive 12-year-old who loves Jeopardy
---Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Part 1 of a series: teen vampire fiction (which started with a draft of this novel in 2006’s competition).
---Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart, the first book in the successful pre-teen Canterwood Crest series. When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she's in trouble.
---Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. See her pep talk.
---Wool by Hugh Howey (part of his Wool trilogy)

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Writing a fiction series

Which is different from Serialized fiction


Why Writing in a Series Will Make You More Money as a Writer (Joanna Penn, Creative Penn, 2-7-18) Why our culture of ‘binge-watching‘ and binge reading means that readers welcome a series. How you can make more money per customer with a back-list. Why boxsets are incredible value for the customer and make you money. And so on.
Ultimate Guide: How To Write A Series (Writer's Edit) The genres best suited to a series are Fantasy, Science Fiction, Crime/Mystery, Historical Fiction, Children's/Young Adult. "If you're writing in another genre, such as literary or commercial fiction, a standalone novel is probably your best bet."
How to Plan a Book Series (NY Book Editors) For starters, have enough content to justify more than one book.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Fiction Series (Rachel Scheller, Writer's Digest, 9-10-13) Even if you (or your editor) don’t notice your inconsistencies, the fans of your series most certainly will.

• If you do write a series, be careful who you publish with. Nothing is more frustrating than having a publisher pull the plug on a series after only a few titles have been published. Adding to the series with another publisher is problematic because publishers of series want to own rights to the backlist. (H/T to a discussion among Authors Guild members.)
• In a discussion of bundling also on the Authors Guild's discussion forum, Maggie Lynch explained that bundling three novels as a package is a way of making extra money without that much work. "It signals to a reader that the series is complete OR that there are more books to come. It is a good promotion, appealing to readers who are price-sensitive. ("If it contains three books that are normally priced at $3.99, then the bundle cost is $7.99 being the equivalent of one book free.") And it's a good giveaway prize when she's running a contest."I didn't have to do anything extra to but the bundle together other than the formatting work of putting it together. With Vellum this is quick and easy."

The Year in Sequels (Katy Waldman, New Yorker, 12-13-22) “The Candy House” (by Jennifer Egan) demonstrates how returning to the past can enrich and reshape the present. Other sequels feel more like wilted love letters to old I.P.

5 Things Writers Should Know About Wattpad & the Future of Publishing (Benjamin Sobieck, Writer's Digest) Eight-five percent of Wattpad’s 45 million readers are between the ages of 13 and 30, and they read, read, read and tweet, tweet, tweet. "A little more than a year ago, I took a chance and posted one of my novels in its entirety on a site called Wattpad. It’s a social reading site, meaning writers post their fiction for free for readers to binge on, bolstered by the force multiplier of social media. Since then, I’ve racked up three-quarters of a million reads of my work, obtained a generous sponsorship from a major television studio, had my work plugged into Hollywood movie campaigns...etc." Wattpad is a home for homeless stories. And with Wattpad Futures, readers still read stories on Wattpad for free, but every now and then they are prompted to watch a sponsored video.
Wattpad Wednesday Fiction writers talk about strategies for hooking their readers (for example, on a series).
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Fiction Series (Rachel Scheller, Writer's Digest, 9-10-13)
How to Create a Series Bible for Your Fiction (Lorna Faith). See also Series Bibles for Authors, workbooks by T.M. Holladay (character bibles, series bibles for TV, etc.). Do a search and you'll find more, including series bibles for screenwriting and TV.
Writing Authentic Settings and Keeping a Series Fresh with Toby Neal (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn Podcast #288, 9-26-16) Transcript of the podcast. "What I encourage people to do is write about a place that they're passionate about. Take readers there. I mean, look at Louise Penny and Three Pines. We want to know everything about Three Pines. And we love it and we're never going to go there."
Writing a Novel Series: Tips for Developing Spin-Offs and Sequels (Joanna Penn, 11-21-13) "Well, according to my Bantam editor (who was weeping when she told me never again to kill off a dog on her watch, no matter HOW minor its character,) my characters touch the hearts of readers...If you move people emotionally, you sell books.” If your characters touch people's hearts, you can sell a series.
Writing A Series: 7 Continuation Issues To Avoid (video, Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 7-13-18) Among points covered: (1) Continuation of character history, physical and personality traits; (2) How much to repeat in case people don't start with the first book; (3) What I remember vs what I actually wrote; and so on.
The Pros & Cons of Writing a Series (Bette Lee Crosby, Writer's Digest, 2-9-18) "In today’s highly competitive book market, discoverability is a critical factor. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, the next challenge is to keep the reader who enjoyed your first book moving on to the second and third. Hence the value of writing a series."
On Changing Book Titles (Joanne Penn, Creative Penn) When titles for the first books in a series don't measure up to (or fit in with) later titles, maybe it's time to revise the early titles
Writing Sequels: 7 Rules for Writing Second Installments (Brent Hartinger, Writer's Digest, 12-3-17) "Writing the next book in a series is not necessarily the same as writing a sequel, because the overarching story line of a series is usually conceived in advance. With a sequel, writers are often starting from scratch with a new, independent plotline, often in response to reader demand. As a result, sequels can be difficult."
5 Tips for Creating a Must-Read Fiction Series (Patricia Gilliam, author of the Hannaria series, on The Write Practice) #3. Treat your setting like another character.

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Writing under a pseudonym (pen name)

Your author name is part of your brand, and writers use pseudonyms for many different reasons. If you are prolific, you might also choose to write different types of books under different author names. Why? To differentiate brands, particularly when you write in different genres (one name for mysteries, one for romance, one for memoirs, etc.), to protect your privacy, to disguise your gender or ethnic identity, to use a more memorable or easy-to-pronounce name, to publish more often than publishers want to publish you. (Some mystery writers have a different series under two or three pseudonyms, widely known to their fans.) Sometimes the pen name is a variation on the author's real name, with spinoffs for different genres. When choosing a pen name, make it short and easy for readers and reviewers to pronounce and spell (not subject to 5 or 6 different spellings). Short names are likely to appear bigger on book covers than long names. Do a search to make sure the name you choose is not already in use by another author and that the name is available as a Dot.com (then grab that website URL). (H/T to Authors Guild member Robin Hobb for some of this advice.)
‘George Eliot’ joins 24 female authors making debuts under their real names (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 8-12-2020) The Reclaim Her Name project, marking 25 years of the Women’s prize for fiction, will introduce titles including Middlemarch by Mary Ann Evans.
Should I Use a Pen Name? (Ask an Author) Reasons to use a pseudonym: To protect your privacy, to separate your academic byline from your fiction byline, to market yourself with an easier-to-use or easier-to-spell name, to distinguish yourself from someone else with a widely known name or from many others who share a common name, to hide your ethnicity or gender, to have a name that will consistently be associated with you despite marriage or divorce or similar events, to re-brand yourself. Reasons NOT to use a pen name: You feel a connection with your birth name, you started with that name and want to extend your bibliography, you want your writing identity to be associated with your non-writing identity (e.g., as a scientist), and contracts are slightly easier when using a legal name.
Have Italian Scholars Figured Out the Identity of Elena Ferrante? (Elisa Sotgiu, Lit Hub, 3-31-21) "For someone interested, like I am, in the cultural history of our present, the creation of Elena Ferrante is a remarkable case study. Elena Ferrante is a pleasure to read. And she is also the greatest literary mystery of our time."
Elena Ferrante in her own words: ‘To relinquish my anonymity would be very painful’ (Ruth Spencer, The Guardian, 10-3-16) The New York Review of Books controversially outed the acclaimed author this weekend. Why did her identity deserve to be protected? Ferrante herself explains: “I simply decided once and for all, over 20 years ago, to liberate myself from the anxiety of notoriety and the urge to be a part of that circle of successful people, those who believe they have won who-knows-what. This was an important step for me. Today I feel, thanks to this decision, that I have gained a space of my own, a space that is free, where I feel active and present. To relinquish it would be very painful.”
Elena Ferrante: An Answer (Claudio Gatti, NY Review of Books, 10-2-16). The author of the popular series of novels about two girls-and-then-women in Naples was a translator when she wrote them, Gatti guesses (based on $$ forensic evidence and a leak). This bothered someone at the New York Times but not others: Who Is Elena Ferrante? Supporters Say NOYB (NY Times) and The “Unmasking” of Elena Ferrante (New Yorker, 10-3-16) in which Alexandra Schwartz castigates Gatti. Do you have a problem with the author not having been a poor woman from Naples? Or wanting to maintain privacy?
Using Different Author Names or a Pseudonym as a Writer (Joann Penn, excerpt from her book How to Market a Book. Five reasons a writer might use a pen name.
Tricks and Traps of Using a Pen Name (Helen Sedwick, Sidebar Saturdays, 7-16-16) Five good reasons for using a pen name. Suggestions for choosing a pen name. What not to do when using a pen name. Decide how secretive you want to be. See additional advice in Using Pen Names in Contracts (Matt Knight, Sidebar Saturdays, 12-10-16) Be particularly careful about what goes in contracts!
Should You Use a Pseudonym? (Moira Allen, Writing-world.com, 2001). Especially good on logistical problems (especially involving the IRS). A pseudonym "will not protect you from any legal action that might result from your writing. A pseudonym has no existence as a 'legal' entity; no matter what name you put on your work, the ultimate responsibility for that work always rests on you."
• Practical tip: Adding a "doing business as," or DBA, to your writing account will allow you to cash checks written out to your pseudonym. Add the DBA to your tax form as well, to prevent confusion.
Pros and Cons of Pseudonyms (Howard G. Zaharoff, reprinted from Writer's Digest, 6-23-03) More reasons to use a pseudonym: to mask gender, to shift genres, to disguise prolificity, to unify identity, to hide moonlighting, to establish credibility. Zaharoff writes also about how to go about adopting a pen name, and bad reasons for doing so.
Using Pseudonyms (as an Ethical Dilemma) (The Research Ethics Guidebook: A resource for social scientists)
• Practical tip on copyright: For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.
8 famous authors who used secret pseudonyms (Melissa Breyer, Mother Nature Network, 7-16-13) She writes briefly about 1. Agatha Christie: Mary Westmacott; 2. Benjamin Franklin: Mrs. Silence Dogood; 3. C.S. Lewis: Clive Hamilton and N.W. Clerk; 4. Isaac Asimov: Paul French; 5. J.K. Rowling: Robert Galbraith; 6. Michael Crichton: John Lange, Jeffery Hudson and Michael Douglas; 7. Stephen King: Richard Bachman; 8. Washington Irving: Jonathan Oldstyle, Diedrich Knickerbocker and Geoffrey Crayon. Do a search on pseudonyms and you can come up with a long list of pseudonyms, especially for fiction.

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Fiction ebooks

Why zombie novels written by indie authors do so well on Kindle (Simon Owens's Tech, media, and marketing e-letter) The success of self-published ebooks has been well-documented in the press. Self-published authors used to be the laughing stock of the publishing industry; they were viewed as naive, talentless writers who couldn’t break into real publishing. Many of those rejected authors claimed that the game was rigged, that agents and New York publishers didn’t even bother reading the manuscripts of unknown writers before tossing them onto the rejection pile....

   "The stigma of self publishing began to fall away, of course, with the debut of the Amazon Kindle and the vast ebook marketplace that opened up as a result. Suddenly, publishing your work was only a few clicks away, and Amazon was incentivized to promote these titles because it received between 30 and 70 percent of the revenue while also serving up a higher cut of sales to the authors....

      "And with Amazon grabbing as much as 70 percent of ebook market share, many independent authors have realized that even though they’ve overcome the barriers long held in place by traditional New York publishers, they’re still beholden to a corporate behemoth that may not always have their best interests at heart."
How Indie Genre Fiction Ebooks Are Thriving Online (Adam Rowe, Forbes, 1-13-18) Genres Are The New Gatekeepers. "The bestselling indie titles are genre fiction," Coker says. "Genre fiction is ideally suited to screen reading because it's straight narrative and easily reflowable." By his reckoning, a first wave of commercial success for independent books can be pegged to the "reverted-rights out-of-print romance titles" that debuted as ebooks in 2009 or 2010 and proved the model could succeed.
E-Book Fiction Bestsellers (New York Times) For this market, the titles are not always fiction subgenres.
FanFiction.Net (an automated fan fiction archive site, as described by Wikipedia).
Top novelists look to ebooks to challenge the rules of fiction (Vanessa Thorpe, The Observer, 3-9-13). Leading British authors drawn to experiment with the scope of interactive storytelling
Konrath Ebooks Sales Top 100k (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, 9-22-10). One writer's good news on self-e-pubbed genre novels!
Can literary fiction survive the ebook age? (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 4-27-13) Some claim that literary fiction has 'lost the next generation' of readers – but brilliant writing remains as important as ever.
Why genre fiction is an e-reader's best friend (Anna Baddeley, The Guardian, 9-1-12) Are thrillers and crime novels better suited to e-readers than more complex fiction?
Why short is sweet when it comes to digital reading (Anna Baddeley, The Observer, 1-26-13). Sometimes lost as part of a collection, the short story has found a perfect home on e-readers.

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Online communities, listservs, and sites for fiction writers

Absolute Writer (writer’s forum on everything from politics to science fiction, including novels, nonfiction, screenwriting, and greeting cards)
Author & Book Promotion Tips (AgentQuery Connect online social networking)
Critique.org Forums (of which Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Writing seems to be most active)
Dorothy L (an online discussion group for mystery lovers)
The Fantasy World Builders Group (dedicated to high fantasy, sci-fi, horror and paranormal writers wishing to create a fictional world the reader can believe)
Friends of Fiction
r/horrorlit (Reddit, horror
Murder Must Advertise (a free email discussion list about how to promote a new mystery book)
Speculative Fiction (AgentQuery Connect online social networking)
WritersCafe.org (n online writing community where writers can post their poetry, short stories, novels, scripts, and screenplays and get reviews, befriend other writers, etc.)
Writers' Cafe--KBoards (a discussion board for Kindle users and authors). The Writer's Café, a sub-board of KBoards, is a source for information about publishing, with a strong emphasis on indie publishing.
Writer Unboxed Click on the names of contributors, bottom right, then click on a name to read that contributor's story archive and their stories will become available. Some gems there.

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Fan fiction


Fan fiction written for an online group is tolerated because it is written for fun, not for profit. Its done to honor the original, not take it over and own it. No money changes hands. The results are free exposure for the author whose copyrighted stories fan fiction stories are spun off from. If you want to use a copyrighted character in any sort of genre undertaken for profit, though -- story, novel, screenplay, play, licensed action figure -- you have to get permission from the copyright holder, or face a possible lawsuit.
Fan Fiction (Lumen's explanation of legalities). Scroll down for Frequently Asked Questions.
What Fan Fiction Teaches That the Classroom Doesn’t (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 10-1-19) Everyone leaves feedback and reviews for one another, leading to a sprawling, communal learning environment.
Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World (Anne Jamison, with foreword by Lev Grossman) "A groundbreaking exploration of the history and culture of fan writing and what it means for the way we think about reading, writing, and authorship. It’s a story about literature, community, and technology—about what stories are being told, who’s telling them, how, and why."
Towards a Definition of “Fanfiction” (Flourish Klink, Medium, 5-30-17)
What I learned from studying billions of words of online fan fiction (Cecilia Aragon, Technology Review, 12-27-19) Fanfic used to be a joke—now it’s teaching kids important skills like learning how to write.
From ‘Fifty Shades’ to ‘After’: Why publishers want fan fiction to go mainstream (Jessica Contrera, Wash Post, 10-24-14)
The Fan-Fiction Friendship That Fueled a Romance-Novel Empire (Julie Beck, The Atlantic, 2-22-19) “We have two relationships. We have to talk about money, and then we have the friendship.”
Making fanfiction beautiful enough for a bookshelf (Julia Alexander, The Verge, 3-9-21) "Book binders are making fanfiction physical, so it can sit alongside the authorized tales....Fanfiction by definition toes the line of copyright law, with advocates arguing that most freely available stories technically fall under “fair use” provisions. For decades, nonprofit groups like the Organization for Transformative Works have spent time defending sites like AO3 from studios, publishers, and other groups that have tried to use copyright laws as a way to have works taken down. But bookbinding poses further issues since there’s usually an exchange of money between two parties.“There’s virtually no law on whether recouping costs qualifies as commercial or not,” says Betsy Rosenblatt, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of California Davis and a member of the Organization for Transformative Works.....Bookbinders and fanfiction writers join other artists who sell unauthorized merchandise and face the threat of takedown notices." Fanfiction toes the line of copyright law, and bookbinding poses further issues.
Why Fan Fiction Is the Future of Publishing (Oliver Jones, Daily Beast, 2-9-15) "Not long ago, fan fiction was considered by the publishing world as little more than the literary equivalent of an annoying copycat little brother. But what was once viewed as either uncreative, a legal morass of copyright issues, or both, is now seen as a potential savior for a publishing industry still finding its moorings in the age of digital media."
I Wrote Erotica Before I Ever Had Sex (Jennifer Wright, Narratively, 3.5.18) My detailed fantasy life began with explicit X-Files fan fiction in junior high. It took a long time for real-life sex to catch up.
FanFiction.net (an automated fan fiction archive site, as described by Wikipedia)
The Promise and Potential of Fan Fiction (Stephanie Burt, New Yorker, 8-23-17)

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The Death of Traditional Publishing

on KrisTualla's Author & Writing Blog). This series, launched in 2010, includes the following:
The Death of Traditional Publishers? A Compilation of Opinions: Part 1
Part 2: How to Save Themselves
Part 3: Death, Thy Name is “Smashwords” Smashwords and other e-book retailers are the real threat to agency pricing and the future of the Agency 6 (Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and HarperCollins). All of their authors are available in all e-book formats -- at prices that are not usurious.
Part 4: The Game Changer by Robert W. Walker. On writing for Kindle, where you can keep track of your own sales.
Part 5, The Game Changer, continued....
Part 6: The WYSIWYG Conundrum a.k.a The Solid Cloud by Richard Adin (on the value of using a professional editor)
Part 7: OTHER Editorial Tasks & The Author’s Responsibility to Their Customers
Part 8: The Date of Their Demise Nov. 2012: The ability to read books on iPads a blow to brick and mortar bookstores.
Part 9: The Rebirth of Print Books! . Print-on-demand technologies allows a no-inventory strategy. "The idea of printing and distributing on speculation and consignment will make less sense as the print market diminishes in its overall share."
Part 10: Why It’s So Hard to GET Published by Jerry Simmons
Part 11: Spawning New Entrepreneurs! (independent editors, book cover designers, freelance cover models, reviewers, book trailer companies, and writing instructors). A separate piece about Jimmy Thomas, who does cover photos for romance novels.
Part 12: Unveiling A Business Model that Didn’t Exist – Until Now
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Literary fiction: Blogs, websites, online magazines

Arts & Letters Daily (ideas, criticism, debate-- a wide array of news stories, features and reviews from across the humanities, each introduced with a short blurb or teaser--from The Chronicle of Higher Education) Twitter: @aldaily
The Best Literary Fiction Blogs & Websites (Jane Friedman)
(and read the comments for more links)
BookRiot (a community dedicated to the idea that writing about books and reading should be just as diverse as books and readers are--a blog covering book-related news, reviews, commentary, advice and information) Twitter: @bookriot
Brick (a literary journal published twice a year)
Catapult (an award-winning daily online magazine of narrative nonfiction, plus updates on books, classes, events) Twitter: @CatapultStory
Electric Lit (expanding the influence of literature in popular culture--started as a magazine and morphed into an advocate, with popular "Recommended Reading") Twitter: @ElectricLit
Fiction Writers Review (an online literary journal that publishes reviews of new fiction, interviews with fiction writers, and essays on craft and the writing life).
Glimmer Train (a short story journal published three times a year). Just redesigned so archives might need time to re-assemble.
Hazlitt ( a website home for writers and artists to tell the best stories about the things that matter most to them, from Random House by way of Canada) Twitter: @Hazlitt
LitHub (a collaboration among between Atlantic, Electric Literature, and other literary publishers and magazines) Twitter: @lithub
McSweeney's Internet Tendency (daily-updated literature and humor site) Twitter: @CanadianJerky. See also The 50 most-read pieces on our site everweeneys.net/"target="_blank">McSweeney's Internet Tendency (daily-updated literature and humor site) Twitter: @CanadianJerky. See also The 50 most-read pieces on our site ever Twitter: @mcsweeneys
The Millions (MM) (an online magazine offering coverage on books, arts, and culture since 2003--“The indispensable literary site” – The New York Times) Twitter: @The_Millions
The Nervous Breakdown (TNB) (TNB, an online culture magazine, book club, and literary community) Twitter: @TNBtweets
NYer Page-Turner (Criticism, contentions, and conversation inspired by books and the writing life) Twitter: @pageturner
The Paris Review blog (a much-followed literary blog that allows informal posts and literary discussion and commentary between quarterly editions of the esteemed print journal) Twitter: @parisreview
The Rumpus (an online literary magazine that knows how easy it is to find pop culture on the Internet)
3:AM Magazine "Whatever it is, we're against it."
Tin House
Vol. 1 Brooklyn (engages and connects the literary-minded from all over -- "see Sunday Story Series, a weekly series of fiction and nonfiction from some of our favorite writers") Twitter: @vol1brooklyn
The Awl See Is That Awl There Is? Remembering The Awl And The Hairpin (Glen Weldon, Morning Edition, NPR, 1-19-18) "They weren't places you went for lazy listicles and clickbait quizzes....You kept The Awl and The Hairpin bookmarked for the writing — smart, vigorous, highly voiced writing on subjects that were personal, idiosyncratic — and likely deemed too off-center by the big print and online magazines. They were little havens of eccentricity and everyday absurdism. Tagline: Be Less Stupid.
My Favorite Fiction Writing Blogs (CG Blake)
Top 50 Fiction Blogs & Websites for Fiction Book Readers & Authors in 2018 (Feedspot)
Top 100 Literary Blogs & Websites in 2018 for Writers and Publishing Agents (Feedspot)

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"One should not be too severe on English novels: they are the only relaxation of the intellectually unemployed." ~Oscar Wilde

How many types of stories are there?

How are stories and plots different?


The Vital Difference Between Plot and Story—and Why You Need Both (Heather Davis on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-10-22) Plot refers to all the external events that happen in a novel. Story refers to the internal transformation your protagonist must make. Think of Plot as what’s happening to your protagonist and Story as what’s happening within your protagonist. If both (plus characterization) are strong you'll have a more compelling narrative. Davis shows seven ways to infuse your plot with story. (One of several different explanations you can find online.)
---Plot vs. Story: What's the Difference? (Arc Studio) Story (in a movie) is the timeline and the sequence of events in your narrative--the who, what, when, where and why of your story. "Plot is the mechanics of how the story is constructed. It is the sequence of events which build into the larger story. If story is the timeline, then the plot supports the story and helps it come to life. The 'story' question is 'what happens next? ' while the plot is what happens. There are plot driven narratives and then there are story driven narratives."
---Plot vs. Story: What's the Difference? (Ken Miyamoto, Screencraft, 4-19-22) The story is about the who, what, and where within your concept. The plot is about the how, when, and why everything within that story happens. Plot frames can be used to help you figure all of that out (example used: Jaws, the movie).
---Plot vs Story: Discover the Key Difference (Jessica Majewski, When You Write, 6-18-21) The elements of a story are character, setting, plot, theme, point of view, style, literary devices. The essential elements of plot are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. "A plot gives order to the story. A story without a plot leaves the readers with a lot of questions—like, why did this happen? What happens after that?"
---Writing Basics: Plot vs. Story (Skill Share, 9-1-21) No one sets out to tell a plot. They tell a story. Your story is the entirety of the situation you write, especially what happens to the characters who inhabit that world. The plot is the series of events necessary for the story to unfold. The plot consists of the nuts and bolts of the story, but the story is the emotional engine that drives our interest.
The Brilliant Hackwork of P.G. Wodehouse (Dan Brooks, Gawker, 12-8-22) In the right hands, recycling a plot can be very funny. To Wodehouse the novelist/dramatist, the principles of a funny plot are well known: a dumb guy thinks he’s the smart guy; he winds up making things worse; he gets treed by a dog or a cop or an uncle; the smart guy gets his gentle revenge.

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Why Plots Fail (Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-26-22) Story equals character arc plus plot. Creating an elaborately structured plot and calling it story is like mapping a trip and calling it a vacation. What makes it complete is the character’s experience of it.
There Are Only 2 Types of Stories—and Why That Matters (Eli Landes on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-15-18) There are just two types, says Landes: Stories about Abnormal characters and Stories about abnormal situations.
The central human struggle ... and the center of enduring stories (Nieman Storyboard,9-24-18) "Egan and I riffed on the old saw that there are only two storylines in all of narrative history: A man takes a journey, and a stranger comes to town. (Years ago, I argued with another friend about a third classic narrative line: Boy meets girl, loves girl, loses girl. That friend sniffed and said: Yes, a man took a journey, and a stranger came to town.) Steinbeck has boiled it to a purer essence: The struggle between good and evil, and the awareness that all humans share in that struggle. As he notes in a passage included in Brain Pickings: 'A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well — or ill?' "
All Stories Are the Same (John Yorke, 1-1-16) From Avatar to The Wizard of Oz, Aristotle to Shakespeare, there’s one clear form that dramatic storytelling has followed since its inception....In stories throughout the ages there is one motif that continually recurs—the journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within.

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Do Stories Have a Universal Shape? (J.D. Lasica on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-2-21) Artificial intelligence that analyzes long-form fiction validates novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s theory of universal story archetypes. See Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories (YouTube video, 2010), his amusing lecture presenting his theories of narrative archetypes, which include

     Boy Meets Girl

     Man in Hole


     The Quest

     Rags to Riches

     Voyage and Return

     Rise and Fall

The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I. (Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, 7-12-16) A machine mapped the most frequently used emotional trajectories in fiction, and compared them with the ones readers like best, inspired by Kurt Vonnegut's description of story mapping. They classify each into one of six core types of narratives (based on what happens to the protagonist--with a focus on the emotional trajectory of a story, not merely its plot):
     1. Rags to Riches (rise)
     2. Riches to Rags (fall)
     3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
     4. Icarus (rise then fall)
     5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
     6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)
The "Basic" Plots in Literature
The Seven Basic Plots (Wikipedia, based on a 2004 book by Christopher Booker, a Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning: The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. "According to Mr. Booker, there are only seven basic plots in the whole world -- plots that are recycled again and again in novels, movies, plays and operas. Those seven plots are:

      1.Overcoming the Monster

      2.Rags to Riches

      3.The Quest

      4.Voyage and Return




Mr. Booker suggests that five of the seven basic plots (Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, and Rebirth) can really be placed under the larger umbrella of Comedy: in their purest form, all have happy endings, all trace a hero's journey from immaturity to self-realization, and all end with the restoration of order or the promise of renewal." ~ Michiko Kakutani's review (NY Times, 4-15-05)
The Seven...Actually Nine Basic Plots According to Christopher Booker (Glen C. Strathy, How to Write a Book Now). Add to Rags to Riches, two variations: Failure, and Hollow Victory. And Basic Plots Booker dislikes: 8. Mystery and 9. Rebellion Against 'The One.'

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Hero's Journey (Wikipedia)
Make the Audience Feel! Take them on an Emotional Journey. (Beemgee). The hero's journey and the reader's emotional journey are related, but not the same!
What are the StoryShop templates? (Storyshop Uni) Storyshop offers "beat templates": Overcoming the Monster (Dracula); Rags to Riches (Cinderella); The Quest (Raiders of the Lost Ark); Voyage and Return (Alice in Wonderland); Tragedy (Romeo and Juliet); Rebirth (Sleeping Beauty - Animated); Western (The Magnificent Seven - 2016); Alien Invasion (Independence Day); Blake Snyder Beat Sheets (Good Will Hunting); Syd Field Story Structure (Iron Man); Hero's Journey (Lord of the Rings); Cozy Mystery (Murder She Wrote); Romance (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days); Thriller (Se7en). See more on Planning and Story structure here and StoryShop video tutorials here.
Science Fiction Writers Workshop: Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey (Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction)
This classic formula can show you how to live more heroically (Ephrat Livni, Quartz, 10-26-18)
The 8 Basic Plots by John Lescroart, who also posted 14 Motives for Murder
20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B Tobias
The "Basic" Plots in Literature (Internet Library, ipl2)
Polti's 36 Dramatic Situations. See also Kathy Hansen's streamlined version of Polti's list.
Mythical Archetype List (Eiland's Online English Materials, included here because they often represent a plot element)
• • The longer I write fiction the more I see *the order of the information* as profoundly crucial, at any level: within a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, a chapter..." --tweet by William Gibson @GreatDismal, 10-20-18

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The synopsis

• ***How to Write a Novel Synopsis (Jane Friedman, 5-1-2020) The synopsis is not sales copy, but a way for an agent or publisher "to see, from beginning to end, what happens in your story. Thus, the synopsis must convey a book’s entire narrative arc. It shows what happens and who changes, and it has to reveal the ending.... A synopsis will reveal any big problems in your story...plot flaws, serious gaps in character motivation, or a lack of structure. A synopsis also can reveal how fresh your story is...Include both story advancement (plot stuff) and color (character stuff)." Covers common novel synopsis pitfalls. Essential reading if you're submitting to an agent or traditional publisher. A synopsis is NOT a chapter-by-chapter summary.
How Writing Your Synopsis Can Fix Your Book (Allison K Williams on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-12-22) Querying with a synopsis shows agents and publishers that your story hangs together. Pull out your manuscript draft and list the major events. Then try connecting each event to the next with a “But” “Therefore” “So” or “Because.” Is anything an “And then…” instead? Make sure the biggest “But” “Because” and “Therefore” moments are big in the manuscript, too. And do it before wasting your writing time polishing scenes that are just “And Then.” With a bow to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who "are brilliant at story structure."
The synopsis: what it is, what it isn’t, how to write it (Caro Clarke) Read up on "what it isn't."
How to Use a Long-Form Synopsis to Plan Your Novel (Julie Artz on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-15-22)
How To Write A Book Synopsis (Carly Watters, literary agent)
How to Write a Synopsis (Nathan Bransford)
6 Steps for Writing a Book Synopsis (Marissa Meyer,4-8-13)
The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
A "Secret" Formula for Creating a Short Synopsis for Your Book (Mike Wells, 5-15-11)
Story Synopsis Quiz (Mike Wells)
How to Write a Brilliant Blurb for Your Book (Mike Wells on how a blurb is different from a synopsis, among other things)
The Anatomy of a SHORT Synopsis (Christine Fonseca, 7-21-10)
The Dreaded Synopsis for romance novels, by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
Summaries, Synopses, and Blurbs (WriteWorld's excellent brief explanations and links to good examples)


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Plot, story structure,
narrative arc, conflict and suspense

scenes and stakes!

“...the most important part of a story is the piece of it you don’t know.”
~from Barbara Kingsolver's novel, The Lacuna

"All you need to write a ghost story is put a ghost in it. For a detective story you need a plot." ~ P.D. James

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.”
~ Tom Clancy
"There's the scaffolding that the writer needs to write the book. And then there's the scaffolding that the reader needs. And those are not the same scaffolding."
~ Alix Ohlin

Story Structure (YouTube video of highly popuslr 45-minute presentation by Joe Nassise, at 20Books Vegas 2021 Day 2, with good visual notes. Three-legged stool of storytelling - character, conflict, consequences (stakes). The hook. Four-act structure. Story phases. Star Wars analysis.
How do you plot a page-turner? (Kristen Tate, The Blue Garrett) Use beat sheets and story structure outlines for inspiration or to diagnose plot problems or gaps, but pay attention to the questions and problems specific to your characters and plot. Excellent guidance, drawing on the structure/architecture of Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me. For more such instruction on writing fiction see Kristen's excellent series of resources called Novel Study
The science of the plot twist: How writers exploit our brains (Vera Tobin, The Conversation, 5-11-18) A cognitive scientists explains: "A major part of the pleasure of plot twists, too, comes not from the shock of surprise, but from looking back at the early bits of the narrative in light of the twist. The most satisfying surprises get their power from giving us a fresh, better way of making sense of the material that came before."
The Role of Causation and Plot Structure in Literary Fiction (Harrison Demchick on Jane Friedman's blog,1-17-22) Cause and effect plotting is every bit as important to literary fiction as to genre fiction or thriller; it’s just expressed in subtler ways. One of the fundamental differences between most thrillers and a lot of literary fiction is that in literary fiction, quite often, the character arc is the primary narrative. Understanding that is important in understanding as well how causation drives character. The causation, then, is cause and effect over time as reflected in small but meaningful shifts in character.
Plottr Like a digital corkboard, Plottr's easy-to-use drag & drop visual timelines, story bibles, and plot and scene templates let you create plots and outline better, faster.
What Writers Get Wrong About Plot (Susan DeFreitas, 7-15-2020) When beginning novelists think there is something wrong with the plot, often, says this writer/writing coach, they need to work on the character arc (the hidden part of the story, the part that shows us what the events of the plot mean, the part that reveals the protagonist's internal journey over the course of the story).
5 Ways to Ensure Readers Don’t Abandon Your Book (H.R. D'Costa on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-19-19) By and large, readers invest more in your protagonist than in any other character. If you want readers to invest in your novel, draw their attention to the stakes, or the negative consequences of your main character's failure--that's what creates tension as the story unfolds.
Aeon Timeline. Build interactive timelines. Model anything from a product roadmap to a fictional universe.
Enough with the spoiler alerts! Plot spoilers often increase enjoyment (Alan Jern, The Conversation, 7-14-16) The satisfaction of knowing what to expect.
Story Planning Books: 3 Approaches to Consider (Katrina Byrd on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-27-18) Byrd explains what's useful about the three following books, and for whom, distinguishing between the differing approaches to structure and character of literary and commercial fiction, and the different ways the three books' approaches can be helpful. (Sounds like she'd be a good person to hire to read your draft manuscript, too.)
---The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne (drawn from his blog on the topic). Breaks down the component parts of stories to identify the problems--to see what works and what doesn't. Certain obligatory scenes are expected in various genres of commercial fiction--what's expected in romance is different from what's expected in science fiction or mystery novels. See also Coyne's Story Grid website and scroll down for Story Grid 101, The Editor's 6 Core Questions for Fiction, part 1 and part 2 (What's the genre? What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre? What's the point of view? What are the objects of desire? What's the controlling idea/theme? What is the beginning hook, the middle build and the ending payoff?) and Story Grid for Non-fiction, which lead to a series of podcasts and transcripts. And see How To Write A Scene That Works: The Story Grid Way (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 4-6-18) The five commandments of storytelling (inciting incident, progressive complication(s), crisis, climax, resolution) explained: scenes that keep readers reading. "Long passages of exposition and/or shoe leather (irrelevant information) make readers lose interest in a story." And Hook, Build, Payoff as parallel to Beginning, Middle, End.
---Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Shows how to combine six core competencies of story writing: Concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot), plus scene construction and writing voice. In literary fiction, scenes are character driven; in commercial fiction, action driven. Whatever type of fiction you are writing you need to focus on the mission of each scene.
---The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, with a plot planner/seven plotting questions and a character emotional profile (stories tend to be action driven or character driven, though sometimes there may be a balance of focus on action and character. (See also The Plot Whisperer Workbook; one reader on Amazon found it useful for a book with a complex story with "more on the line for the characters"--and also recommended. for the same type of story, Outlining Your Novel by K.J. Weiland) for when you can't be a "pantser" (a seat-of-the-pants writer) but need to be a plotter (an outliner).
How To Outline A Novel (Scott McCormick, Book Baby, 1-12-23) There are many reasons to outline a novel, even for those writers inclined to write by the seat of their pants. Here are some practical ideas to get you started on an outline. Hook, logline, character, structure outline.
Logline: Who is your main character? What are they trying to do? What’s preventing them? What will happen if they fail?
Writing by the seat of your pants — aka “pantsing” — doesn’t necessarily mean you go from Chapter One to “The End” without a break. So what does it mean to “pants” a novel? (Scott McCormick, Book Baby, 1-18-23) "Once I’ve established the setting and decided that I like this world enough to keep working on it, I usually pause the narrative and get to know my characters and see how they interact so I can get a sense of their banter.... I often write random scenes, with no worry about how or if any of these scenes will fit into my book. When I’ve collected enough of these scenes to feel like I know where the story is going, then I’ll dive back in to my novel, placing the scenes in order and fleshing out the rest of the story....When I get stuck, it’s usually around the halfway point. If so, a quick glance at a structural template is enough for me to get back on track."
     See Story Structure: The 5 Key Turning Points of All Successful Screenplays (Michael Hauge, Story Mastery, 9-22-14) An interesting explanation of story stages and turning points: Set-Up, Opportunity, New Situation, Change of Plans, Progress, Point of No Return, Complications and Higher Stakes, Major Setback, Final Push, Climax, Aftermath.

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Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell. Good especially for commercial fiction.
5 Ways to Ensure Readers Don’t Abandon Your Book (H.R. D'Costa on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-19-19). Her book Story Stakes provides lots of examples (more often from movies than from books, but the principles are the same: Without stakes, or the negative consequences of failure, "your protagonist doesn’t have a reason to keep on pursuing his goal," and there’s no cause for readers to disengage and abandon reading your novel or watching your movie. If you wield those "stakes wisely, you'll create the emotional intensity that'll make your book impossible to put down."
Backstory and Exposition: 4 Key Tactics (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-23-21) Two key challenges in writing a novel are providing "backstory (essential information about the characters’ past) and exposition (essential information about the context of the story)." DeFreitas describes four approaches: Show, don't tell; show, then tell; backstory as story; and backstory as reveal.
No Story Without Backstory (Beemgee) "Backstory is the stuff that went on before the story begins, or more precisely, before the kick-off event in scene 1.... After all, the characters come from somewhere – they have pasts, they have histories. These histories have shaped them into who they are, which determines their actions now, in the time of the story."
Weaving Flashbacks Seamlessly into Story (Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-6-22) "Flashback often works with the two other main types of backstory—context and memory—to create seamless, intrinsic flow. They don’t need to be treated as a standalone entity (which may be awkwardly inserted into the main story), but rather can be an intrinsic part of it."
The One Thing Your Novel Absolutely Must Do (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-26-21) There’s only one thing that any novel must do if it’s going to succeed, and that’s arouse the reader’s curiosity. How? Curious openings, propulsive plotting, and unexpected endings, among other things.
5 Surefire Ways to Raise the Stakes of Your Story (Claire Bradshaw, Writer's Edit)
The Myth of Plan First and Write Later (Louise Tondeur on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-11-19) You don’t have to choose between planning and "simply writing." Do both, at different times, all the way through the novel writing process. Consider using scene cards.
How Long Should It Take to Write a Book? (Merilyn Simonds on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-4-18). Sometimes the total time includes a lot of time being put aside, and in the example she gives in her own fiction writing, Simonds tells a good story of how a simple short conversation can provide the prod for totally restructuring the way a good story is told, so that it finally works.
4 Elements of Narrative That Anyone Can Learn (Alan Gelb on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-29-19) "Narrative is a form that can be learned, like a dance move or a golf swing. I break down narrative into four elements: The Once, The Ordinary vs. the Extraordinary, Conflict and Tension, and The Point. When you understand how these elements act and interact, you’ll have a much stronger sense of how to tell a story."
How Suspense and Tension Work Together to Increase Story Impact (Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-9-22) Suspense creates questions in the audience’s mind—and it’s the engine of every “unputdownable” story. The fuel that powers it is tension—creating conflict, obstacles, friction—and it belongs on every single page.
Story structure (narrative arc) and storytelling (this subsection under Narrative Nonfiction may be helpful for those writing fiction) How to Skillfully Use Subplots in Your Novel (Diana Kimpton, on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-23-18) "Subplots help you pace your story and keep the tension rising. Unfortunately, the name 'subplots' wrongly suggests they are somehow inferior or substandard....One big advantage in thinking about story strands rather than subplots is that you don’t have to worry whether a strand is big enough to count as a subplot in its own right or is really part of the main story. It won’t make any difference to your writing either way..." From Kimpton's book, Plots and Plotting: How to create stories that work.
Don’t Tease Your Reader. Get to the Tension and Keep It Rising (Joe Ponepinto on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-27-21) If you write knowing how the story will end, you’ll deprive readers of the tension that comes from putting obstacles in your characters’ way.
What the “Serial” Podcast Teaches Us About Writing Novels (Michael Nye, The Missouri Review, TMR, 11-19-14)
Plot as "Story Dancing" (Story Dancing) Plot needs to gain your reader's attention, retain it, and "repay" it.
How J.K. Rowling Plotted Harry Potter with a Hand-Drawn Spreadsheet (Colin Marshall, Open Culture, 7-1-14)
A Writer's Plot Board: Getting organized (Adventures in YA Publishing, 1-4-11) and Book Dissection, Plot Boards, and Revisions, OH MY! (Nicki Pau Preto, YA Highway, 9-2013). Think storyboards.
The Engine in Your Book (Dawn Field, BookBaby blog, 8-3-17) "Early on in writing, your job is building up information density. You start with just your great idea and build up enough detail to fill a book. Once you have the content you want, you work to balance it, smooth it, and make it consistent. The best thing about the right level of information density is that this is when readers suspend disbelief. They start to see your story as something real – at least something they are willing to mentally 'step into.'"
Avoid Nagging False Suspense Questions in Your Story Opening (Peter Selgin, author of Your First Page, Jane Friedman blog, 2-7-18) "Among a novelist’s chief challenges is that of determining what information to supply when and where: how to balance the desire to arouse suspense with the need to prevent confusion....Supply too much information too soon, and you destroy suspense. Supply too little and you create false suspense, otherwise known as confusion." One first page demonstrates how this works.
4 Story Weaknesses That Lead to a Sagging Middle (Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-9-2020) If your middle’s lost momentum, check to see if your plot, characters, stakes and suspense consistently propel readers along the story arc.
Shrunken Manuscript (Darcy Patterson's interesting technique for broadly revising a novel manuscript, from her book Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise

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Storyfix 2.0, a popular blog about writing fiction. by Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering (about the six core competencies of successful story telling) and Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling.
Agency – The Rustle In The Bushes (Beemgee) "We humans have a built-in predisposition to expect agency....What this means is that when we notice that something happened, we tend to look for the cause of the event....It influences aspects of our lives ranging from curiosity to religion. It is also built into the deep structure of story."
Narrative vs. Chronology (Beemgee) "Every story has two timelines, the order in which the author chooses to relate the events, and the order in which they happen in time...the author needs to control both timelines. That’s why Beemgee has a narrative/chronology switch."
From the Roots of Character Grow the Branches of Plot (Josh Henkin, Glimmertrain) "My graduate students often tell me they have trouble with plot, but what they're really telling me is they have trouble with character. I remind my students to ask themselves a hundred questions about their characters....in the answers to those questions lie the seeds of a narrative."
There’s Not Always a Pill for That: In Defense of Conflict (Jen Brannan, The Millions, 2-18-16) "If you talk to literature professors, you may have heard them wonder aloud at the tendency of their students to diagnose characters. Anna Karenina clearly has borderline personality disorder, Holden Caulfield seems to have been abused as a child, Raymond Carver’s characters wouldn’t have these problems if they’d just go to AA....For great moments in literature to play out, conflict must play out, and often characters must behave in ways that aren’t pretty. By resisting conflict on the page, we may risk being resistant to empathy."
Storyboard Considerations for Producing Effective Scenes (Michael Neff, AuthorSalon.com, 7-1-13) Neff writes of viewing your project as having three levels of complexity: Layer 1: Overall story premise and plot. Layer 2: The actual scenes in the story, as well as the nature of the inter-scene narrative. Layer 3: The narrative composition and delivery of your scenes and inter-scene text. He rounds out that discussion with more, found here: Craft points and epiphany.

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Kurt Vonnegut at the Blackboard (Lapham's Quarterly, 2005). Vonnegut diagrams common successful stories and concludes that some masterpieces were created by artists who were poor storytellers. If that's slow-loading or non-loading, try: The Universal Shapes of Stories, According to Kurt Vonnegut (Robbie Gonzalez, Gizmodo, 2-20-14). With video. Man in Hole, Boy Meets Girl, From Bad to Worse, Which Way Is Up?
Plot or Characterization? Part 1 (Alison Parker, guest posts on An American Editor, 10-24-16). "Romance fiction used to be the most reliable way to make money in fiction. In 2011, unknowns could breeze into Amazon and other such places, and their indie stuff would sometimes rake in amazing sums." But the market is glutted now. Cliff-hangers and sexual tension aren't enough in romance fiction, writes Parker. Without good characters, the reader is going to be dissatisfied. Plot or Characterization? Part 2 (Alison Parker, An American Editor, 12-5-16) "...many authors manage to take darker elements from their past and turn them around to make them happier and more elevating. A great case in point is the story of Anne Shirley, the heroine of Anne of Green Gables and several sequels. Like many romantic heroines, she’s an orphan, cast adrift and unprotected. That yields instant drama, which grows even more dramatic for Anne when she goes to a house on Prince Edward Island hoping to find a real home at last after years of drudgery and starved emotions....And if you want to see a boatload of copy editors gasp and swoon, to say nothing about Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, just mention Anne. And yet the novel breaks many of the sacred rules of current fiction." Part ii focuses partly on these, including the books episodic structure." And Plot or Characterization (Part 3) (Alison Parker, An American Editor, 12-7-16) "Though Anne of Green Gables lacks a cohesive plot, it more than makes up for that defect through characterization. In addition, every flouting of modern rules of story structure follows from there and finds its justification. It’s also a book written in anger, often a good spur to the imagination." There is humor and satire, and above all, Anne is a flawed character, 'a disrupting influence,' "the independent spirit who appeals to the child reader who chafes at adult strictures or to the adult who sometimes feels restricted by society’s expectations.”
How to Weave Backstory Into Your Novel Seamlessly (Brian Klems, Writer's Digest, 6-6-13). Including too much backstory in the opening pages of a novel is a common mistake aspiring authors make: Too much, too soon. "Putting my characters on that ship and showing what happens to them when the iceberg they lasso rolls unexpectedly and their ship turns upside down is sufficient. I have the whole rest of the book to show why they were there in the first place."
Lisa Cron, Wired for Story, Parts I and II and other wrap-ups from the WritersUnboxed UnConference, with Jeannine Walls Thibodeau pulling together a recap of what attendees learned from speakers, using notes from several sources. See also notes from WU Un-Conference Wrap-up, Part 2: Story and Plot with Don Maass, Lisa Cron, and Brunonia Barry, and WU Un-Conference Wrap-up, Part 3, including Don Maass, How Good Manuscripts Go Wrong; Porter Anderson, Things to Ignore in Criticism; and more.
Man in Hole (Dan Piepenbring, Paris Review, 2-4-15) Turning novels’ plots into data points.

3 Things You Need to Know About the Domino Effect in Fiction (Writer's Ally) See also Why Now? How to Identify Problems with Causation in Your Novel

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A Novel Method for Detecting Plot (Matthew L. Jockers, 6-5-14). See also follow-up piece: Revealing Sentiment and Plot Arcs with the Syuzhet Package (Matthew Jockers, 2-2-15).
The Pros and Cons of Plotters and Pantsers (The Magic Violinist)
Authors on the Importance of Writing the Final Chapter First (Alison Nastasi, Flavorwire, 6-30-13). Nastasi's examples: Margaret Mitchell, J. K. Rowling, Agatha Cristie, Edgar Allen Poe, Graham Greene, and John Irving.
Do You Have a Plot? (Nathan Bransford)
Feytag's Pyramid (one of many online diagrams of the elements of a plot in terms of rising and falling action, inciting incident, denouement, etc.)
Where to Begin: The Search for the Inciting Incident (Peter Selgin, on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-9-18) Where to begin? This pesky "question comes down to structure. Not what happened, i.e. the series of events that make a story, but the order in which those events are conveyed....Writing guides often use the term inciting incident, meaning the event or incident that propels a character or characters out of their status quo existence, igniting the plot. But locating that inciting incident isn’t always that simple, since often there’s more than one." Selgin walks us through an unsuccessful draft, to explain how wrong choices don't work.
Notecarding: Plotting Under Pressure (Holly Lisle)
Plot...or Not? Part 1: The six essential elements of a plot (Kathryn Lance), Part 2: What is the difference between a premise and a plot? See also How to keep your readers turning pages. Part I: the Cliff
Finding the Right Door to Enter Your Story ( PJ Parrish, Kill Zone, 7-21-15) Practical tips.
Author Interview: Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett, The Marshall Plan® (Kathleen Bolton, Writer Unboxed, 10-1-10).
Writer Unboxed (website with resources on the craft and business of fiction)
Plotting Your Novel (Lee Masterson, Writing-World.com)
How to Structure A Story: The Eight-Point Story Arc (Ali Hale, explaining Nigel Watts' principles for structuring fiction, as explained in Write a Novel and Get It Published: A Teach Yourself Guide).
Narrative arc: What the heck is it? (Robb Grindstaff)
Plot and Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell. (His LOCK theory: to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, who must have an objective; there must be confrontation and the ending must have "knockout power."
Conflict and Suspense (James Scott Bell)

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The Romance Plot (Kirby Farrell, The Denial File: What We Can't Think About and Why, 7-7-14)
• John Truby on the moral structure of stories. "I used to try to just “follow my pen” and I always ended up with 600 pages of material that rambled and had no shape. It was a nightmare. Now, I use The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller (John Truby on story structure), which a student of mine at UCLA turned me onto. Truby is a Yale Ph.D. who studied the moral structure of stories, eschewing the standard three-act structure for something richer and deeper. I thought my head was going to explode. Everything he said made so much sense to me. I boil it down for my students and clients and call it Rolling Stones method of story telling: A character can’t always get what she wants, but sometimes, if she tries, she can get what he or she needs. It’s a less black-and-white method of thinking about story and it allows for so much more creativity. You tell the story through the moral issue the character is facing, through reveals, self-revelations, and reversals.
• "I also follow my hero John Irving’s dictum to know my last sentence." ~novelist Carolyn Leavitt, interviewed by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, Voices on Writing, ASJA Monthly (Sept. 2013)
Click here for outline of his three-day workshop, and info about scheduled workshops.
Suzie Quint applies problem-solving with plots to novels in her review of Syd Field's book, The Screenwriter's Problem Solver: How to Recognize, Identify, and Define Screenwriting Problems.
Single novel plotting template (S.L. Viehl, Paperback Writer)
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall (a 16-step guide to structuring and plotting a novel, placing action and reaction scenes, plots and subsidiary plots--for those who work well with templates). He has a helpful Marshall Plan website. The book is now also available as software (co-authored with Martha Jewett).
Plot and Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell. (His LOCK theory: to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, who must have an objective; there must be confrontation and the ending must have "knockout power."
The Puzzle-Piece Plotting Method: Using What You Know to Build What You Don’t (Justin Attas on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-27-2020) Puzzle-Piece the story together from details you already already have the means to solve, starting with Genre, then moving to Setting, Themes, Characters, and ultimately a Sequence of Events, or outline.
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson. See also her blog of the same name. And: I called the Plot Whisperer (about a character chart) and this one on finding the strongest climax.
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (2nd edition) by Patricia Highsmith
Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative by Peter Brooks

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Scenes: Show, don't tell

"Don't tell me the moon is shining;
show me the glint of light on broken glass." ~ Anton Chekhov

The Units of Story: The Scene (Shawn Coyne, Story Grid) "The scene is the basic building block of a Story....While it can be broken down into its component beats, the scene is the most obvious mini-story. They are the things that stay ever present when we talk about a great movie or great novel. Remember what happened after character A saw character B with another woman?"
• Roslyn Reid quotes John Rogers, scriptwriter on the crime drama TV series "Leverage," "In every scene, always remember:
1. Who wants what?
2. Why can't they have it?
3. Why do I care?"
• For books, instead of dumping an overload of details in one place, about a character, place, or  storyline, ask of each set of details "Does the reader need to know this?" and "Does the reader need to know this now?" Readers are often repelled by long pages of exposition of what a town looked like, its history, the weather, etc.--the "dreaded data dump," Roz calls it. Master the art of spreading information out so the reader can absorb it lightly, spread through the narrative, and on a need-to-know basis. (H/T: Authors Guild discussion)
What Does It Mean to Write a Scene That Works? (Rebecca Monterusso, on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-14-18) "So what is a scene, really? Change through conflict. On the whole, stories are about change. And scenes are a boiled down, less intense, mini-story. They should do the same thing your global story does: upset the life value of the character and put them on a path to try and restore it."
The Building Blocks of Scene (Sharon Oard Warner on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-14-22) The first in a three-part series by Sharon Oard Warner, adapted from her book Writing the Novella.

Part 2: Good Scenes Require Specifics.

Part 3: Moving Between Scenes with Summary and Spacers, the connective tissue between scenes. Janet Burroway distinguishes between sequential and circumstantial summary by the way they organize time. Sequential summary offers an efficient if compressed accounting of a particular period of time. Circumstantial summary provides a glimpse of the way these trips generally go.
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler, who's especially good on "show, not tell." To deliver emotion in its purest form, don’t dilute it with interpretation.
The Fundamentals of Writing a Scene (Jordan Rosenfeld and Martha Alderson on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-8-15) "When writing fiction (or even narrative nonfiction), scenes are microcosms of your larger plot. Each scene takes us into a crucial moment of your characters’ story and should engage both our emotions and our minds by creating real-time momentum or action." Advice from Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Alderson and Rosenfeld
3 Key Tactics for Crafting Powerful Scenes (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-27-21) When placed intentionally, crafted well, and set up via emotional context and backstory, scene might be the writer’s most powerful tool. It's important to dramatize turning points, employ reversals, and set it up and then step back. Susan's novel Hot Season won a Gold IPPY Award.
Writing the Perfect Scene (AdvancedFictionWriting) Scenes (goal, conflict, disaster) and Sequels (reaction, dilemma, decision).
On Books: Visions and Revisions (Part II) (Alison Parker, An American Editor, 8-15-16). About the recognition or revelation scene in drama — the anagnorisis: the point in the plot at which a character or characters recognize their or someone else’s true identity or motives, or even the nature of their situation.
How To Write A Scene That Works: The Story Grid Way (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 4-6-18) The Five Commandments of Storytelling.
Questions to Consider When Plotting a Scene (C.S. Lakin on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-3-19) Before writing a scene, determine what type of scene it’s going to be. A narrative scene? High-action? Low-energy dialogue? Who will the POV character be? Where will it take place? See Scene Structure Checklist and other handouts. By the author of The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction.

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30 Days to Stronger Scenes Series: TOC (Darcy Pattison, Fiction Notes) (scene v. narrative, beat sheets, keeping scenes on track, showdown in every scene, plotting with scenes, stories that spaghetti, etc.)
“Show, Don’t Tell” – What It Means And How To Do It (Hannah Collins, Standout Books, 12-7-16)
Seduction, Not Instruction (Part I) (Alex Keegan, Writers Write). And here's Part II.
Show, Don't Tell ( Shruti Chandra Gupta, 12-21-09, Literaryzone.com)
The “Show, Don’t Tell” Fallacy (Steven Fraccaro, The Recalcitrant Scrivener). An intelligent dissenting view.
Showing, Not Telling, in Fiction Writing (Jeff Colburn, FictionAddiction.Net, 10-31-12)
How to show, when to tell (Ray Ramey, Flogging the Quill)
Tell, Don't Show (Victoria Grossack, Fiction Fix)
Show, Don't Tell (Robert J. Sawyer, SFWriter.com, 1995)
How to Write Fiction That Feels Real (Creative Writing Now)
These are a few of many examples online. Google the phrase and you will find may other explanations and examples.

Writing transitional scenes

Some of these are more relevant to fiction, some more to nonfiction, many to both!

Jumping the Cut: Writing Transitional Scenes in the Netflix and Twitter Age (Sharissa Jones, Dead Darlings, 4-17-18) Effective transitional scenes must go beyond the core mechanics of telling the reader place and time.
Mastering Scene Transitions (Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog, 5-24-11) "Transitions are important in fiction because the writer can’t possibly portray or account for every moment in a character’s day, week, or life. A story may stretch over years—readers don’t need to know what happened every minute of those years. So, we use scene transitions to skip periods of time or to change to a new location in the story, glossing over events that happen between the new and old times or locations. Some tips to keep them on track.
How to Write Great Transition Scenes (Agent X, Men with Pens)
Writing scene breaks and transitions that develop your story (Now Novel)
Ask the Writing Teacher: Transitions (Edan Lepucki, The Millions, 7-23-12)

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Setups and payoffs

Writing Scenes: Crafting the Setup and the Payoff ( Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-28-18) Always be writing scene....not just a dramatic incident characterized by action and dialogue, but background information regarding prior events and circumstances, physical descriptions, and other contextualizing matter necessary to support it: the setup....always be aware of the dramatic moment you are leading your reader to, that is being prepared or setup through telling. As long as you have that dramatic payoff in mind as your goal, the telling won’t feel inert; it will be imbued with tension, with the sense that Chekhov’s Gun will go off."

The Setup-Payoff Model of Storytelling (Bryan Keithley, Ascentive Blog 6-1-11). Essentially, as Chekhov said, " if a gun appears prominently in the first act of the play, it had better play some role by the final act, or else the audience will feel cheated." This has to do "with the literary real estate you give to an item, theme, character, etc."

Use setups and payoffs in your fiction (William Kowalski, The Writer, April 2007, PDF). How to use a storyline—say, a beloved farmhouse at risk of foreclosure — to create reader expectations and then satisfy them.
Setups and Payoffs (Steven Pressfield, 10-31-12). Beginning writers often fail to provide a payoff for a setup or a setup for a payoff. You need both, whether you're writing a novel, screenplay, short story, or op ed, says Pressfield.
Setup and Payoff: The Two Equally Important Halves of Story Foreshadowing (K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors, 1-22-16)
Setup & Payoffs in Mean Girls (Scribe Meets World).
How to Write a Red Herring (Tana French as told to Lila Shapiro, Vulture, 10-3-18)
3 Fiction Writing Terms: Foreshadow, MacGuffin, Red Herring (KL Wagoner, 3-15-18)
• Alfred Hitchcock coined the term "MacGuffin" to refer to an object, event, or piece of knowledge that both the good guys and the bad guys consider to be extremely important, thus serving to set and keep the plot in motion. "But the twist is that a true MacGuffin, as Hitchcock defined it, turns out to be essentially worthless: the black bird in The Maltese Falcon, the engine plans in The 39 Steps," etc.~ Neil Landau, The Screenwriter’s Roadmap: 21 Ways to Jumpstart Your Story.&nbsp

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Opening and closings
(best ledes and endings--first and last lines)

Nothing is more effective than a great opening or closing, but be aware that in the creation process these are usually not the first thing you write. Don't get stuck waiting for the perfect "lede," as it may not come to you until you've been writing for a while.


"Never open a book with weather." ~ - from Elmore Leonard's rules for writers


"You only get one chance to make a first impression."


"As Orson Welles told us, if we want a happy ending, it depends on where we stop the story." ~ Deborah Levy (The Cost of Living)


"First sentences are doors to worlds." ~ Ursula LeGuin

How to Write Your First Paragraph ( John Matthew Fox on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-1-22) The four critical components of first paragraphs: Characterization, energy/tone, mystery, emotional bedrock.
A good lead is everything — here's how to write one (Hannah Bloch, NPR Training, 10-12-16) Spelled “lede,” from the bygone days of typesetting when newspaper folks needed to differentiate the lead of a story from the lead of hot type). She writes about straight news leads, anecdotal leads, scene-setting leads, first-person leads, observational leads zinger leads, and bad leads.
Why Stephen King Spends 'Months and Even Years' Writing Opening Sentences (Joe Fassler, The Atlantic, 7-23-13) The author of horror classics like The Shining and its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep says the best writers hook their readers with voice, not just action. "An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection -- a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing. With really good books, a powerful sense of voice is established in the first line."

Is using epigraphs to start chapters "fair use"? Novelists love to start chapters with brief quotations from other writers' work. Is this fair use? Carolyn Haley answered this question succinctly on the Copyediting-L listserv: " Epigraphs from book-length material can fall under 'fair use' comfortably as long as they are a line or two. Song lyrics and poetry, however, because of their brevity, are problematic for even a single phrase. Best practice is to obtain permission or do without." 

Asked and Answered: Framing Story Questions Effectively (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-2-18) Sometimes everything we need for our story openings is there, more than we need, in fact. It’s just a matter of cutting and rearranging.
Find the Ending Before You Return to the Beginning (Sharon Oard on Jane Friedman's blog,3-1-21) Just as we might be conflict averse, it can be tempting to keep revising a story’s beginning instead of proceeding into the messy middle.
When Your Story Opening Does Nothing But Blow Smoke (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-20-19) Good examples of empty openings.
The No. 1 Rule for Flashbacks in a Story Opening (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-27-18) Rule No. 1 for flashbacks: until and unless you’ve invested us in a scene, don’t flash back (or away) from it! The point of a flashback is to illuminate the scene from which it digresses, to add dimension and tension to it.
5 Common Story Openings to Avoid—If You Can Help It (Jane Friedman, 1-10-2020) While it's not wrong to open in these ways—and a great writer can make even the most pedestrian series of events read as fascinating—consider if you can find a more advantageous way to begin.
Good Beginnings: How to Write a Lede Your Editor—and Your Readers—Will Love (Robin Meadows, The Open Notebook, 7-14-15) Four editors on ledes they love and why they love them, and the writers on how they did it. (Jacob Aron for New Scientist ("Make the reader smile"), Rachel Nuwer for Science ("Leave the reader hanging), Gabriel Wyner for Scientific American Mind ("Find common ground with the reader"), and David Quammen for National Geographic ("Make a promise and establish tension").
When Your Opening Has an Excess of Nested Scenes, or Russian Doll Syndrome (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-23-18) If you’re determined to transition readers quickly through various scenes occurring at discordant times, skillful handling of tenses, and particularly of the no-longer-taught past perfect or pluperfect tense, becomes vital.
Graham Greene and The Art of the Opening Paragraph (ed.Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads, 9-28-19). Ten of Greene's greatest opening gambits (ranked, roughly). "Note how much depth Greene packs into these lines, how he launches the story forward without any ostentatious bells or whistles, just an authenticity of voice and a confidence in craft."
Good Beginnings: How to Write a Lede Your Editor—and Your Readers—Will Love (Robin Meadows, The Open Notebook, 7-14-15) "The best ledes give you a taste of the story but leave you wanting to know more, says Jacob Aron, physical sciences reporter at New Scientist. Inspiration for a good first line often comes after work, when he's done reporting but hasn't started writing."
And now for some really bad ledes (KristenHare, Poynter, 4-17-14)
Gallery of good ledes, recommendation edition (Kristen Hare, Poynter, 4-18-14)
Gallery of ASNE Award-Winning Leads (Chip Scanlan, Poynter, 5-29-03)
'This Did Something Powerful to Me': Authors' Favorite First Lines of Books (Joe Fassler,The Atlantic, 7-25-13) Jonathan Franzen, Margaret Atwood, David Gilbert, Roxane Gay, and other writers share their thoughts on what makes an inviting and memorable opening sentence.
My favourite first line – by writers on the 2013 Man Booker prize longlist (Robert McCrum and Tess Reidy, The Observer, 8-3-13) The observer asked the same of 2013's Man Booker prize longlist … with some surprising results
100 Best First Lines from Novels (American Book Review)
Famous First Lines from novels and books (Authorlink)
The best 100 opening lines from books (The Stylist, UK)
You Had Me at the First Line (Kimberlie I. Leon, Huffington Post, 2-27-14).
How to Write Great Ledes for Feature Stories (Tony Rogers, ThoughtCo, 8-25-17) "Hard-news ledes need to get all the important points of the story – the who, what, where, when, why and how – into the first sentence or two, so that if the reader only wants the basic facts, he gets them quickly.... Feature ledes, sometimes called delayed, narrative or anecdotal ledes, unfold more slowly. They allow the writer to tell a story in a more traditional, sometimes chronological way. The objective is to draw the readers into the story, to make them want to read more."
Structure (John McPhee, New Yorker, 1-14-13) A long piece on how in structuring a complex piece he assembles the parts, including the lead sentence and the closing.
Covering the Cops (Calvin Trillin, New Yorker, 2-17-86) "In the newsroom of the Miami Herald, there is some disagreement about which of Edna Buchanan’s first paragraphs stands as the classic Edna lead. I line up with the fried-chicken faction."
A look at some of sports journalism’s best leads (Gerald Eskenazi, Columbia Journalism Review, 1-5-16)
The Lead (Melvin Mencher, chapter 6 from News Reporting and Writing) Long and worth reading.
The Best Lines from New Books (Oprah, 3/5/13--click right to move from one to the next)


'This Did Something Powerful to Me': Authors' Favorite First Lines of Books (Joe Fassler,The Atlantic, 7-25-13) Jonathan Franzen, Margaret Atwood, David Gilbert, Roxane Gay, and other writers share their thoughts on what makes an inviting and memorable opening sentence.
My favourite first line – by writers on the 2013 Man Booker prize longlist (Robert McCrum and Tess Reidy, The Observer, 8-3-13) The observer asked the same of 2013's Man Booker prize longlist … with some surprising results
100 Best First Lines from Novels (American Book Review)
The best 100 opening lines from books (The Stylist, UK)
100 best closing lines from books (The Stylist)
100 Best Last Lines from Novels (American Book Review)
You Had Me at the First Line (Kimberlie I. Leon, Huffington Post, 2-27-14).
The Best Lines from New Books (Oprah, 3/5/13--click right to move from one to the next)
81 staggering lines in literature. (Cole Schafer, Medium, 3-14-19) Which book is this line from: "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit em, but remember that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird."

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ENDINGS AND LAST LINES ("The Kicker" in journalism)

"Fuckin' endings, man. They aren't as easy as they look." Elmore Leonard, Get Shorty

The Art of the Last Line: How to Find Your Story’s Ending (NY Book Editors) "Your opening sentence must grab the reader’s attention and make them keep reading, and your final sentence determines what they take away from it, how they feel when they turn that final page.
Good Endings: How to Write a Kicker Your Editor—and Your Readers—Will Love (Robin Meadows,The Open Notebook, 11-24-15) Three editors on kickers they love and why they love them, and the journalists on how they did it.
The 23 most unforgettable
last sentences in fiction
(Ron Charles, Washington Post, 2-14-19)
100 Best Last Lines from Novels (American Book Review)
100 best closing lines from books (The Stylist)
Grand finales: Tips for writing great endings (Alan Rinzler, The Book Deal, 12-31-11) "Endings are about change. Fiction and narrative nonfiction stories are about overcoming major obstacles, quests, and transformations. The changes may not be all good. The story may be upsetting or depressing. But if none of the book’s characters has learned anything and the challenges faced at the outset remain static and identical to those at the end, the story can seem pointless, unsatisfying, and without universal significance."
Everything You Need to Know About Writing Endings (NY Book Editors) "The last line is often more important than the first line of your book."
Begin Again: On Endings in Nonfiction (e.v. de cleyre, Ploughshares at Emerson College, 11-16-15)
Strong endings anchor chart (Pinterest)
How to Write Successful Endings (Nancy Kress, Writer's Digest, 3-11-08)

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Point of View (POV)

Fiction: Point of View (Steve Almond, Writer's Digest, 7-25-08)
What’s the Difference Between Perspective and Point of View? (NY Book Editors, Feb. 2016). See also All About Point of View: Which One Should You Use?
Exploring Narrative Point of View (Sean Glatch, Writers.com,5-10-21) The Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary dystopia, and by leaving the narrator anonymous, Atwood suggests that the narrative point of view could be all women’s experiences, not just the narrator’s.
Why Writing Second Person POV Appeals To Marginalized Writers (Valerie Valdes, SFWA, 11-29-21) 'In recent conversations about this topic, an interesting trend emerged: many marginalized writers, especially BIPOC ones, expressed that they had written second person POV stories and found the form quite natural, even desirable for their specific purposes. Why might that be, and what are those purposes precisely? As with most other aspects of society, much of this is rooted in how marginalized folks are already expected to adjust our needs and wants to what’s available, while those in the perceived “mainstream” expect what’s available to be created with their needs and desires already in mind....We often have to code-switch to engage with others, so it can feel more natural for us to accept and inhabit different selves without fear of losing the core of who we are.'
Understanding Third-Person Point of View: Omniscient, Limited and Deep (Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-25-21) Third-person POV dominates the current publishing market, so it’s helpful to learn to navigate its many facets. By the author of Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing
Literary Devices: How To Master Alternate Point of View (Writer's Edit, Jan. 2020) A practical piece that concludes with a list of novels that use alternate POV (aka switching POV, dual POV or multiple POV).
How Big of a Problem Is “Head Hopping”? (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-8-22) Switching POVs within the same scene should only be tackled by experienced fiction writers, and only when it reveals something important.
Sheep's view of Faroe Island (video, PR & Case films for the award-winning marketing campaign Sheep View 360)
Third Person Omniscient vs. Third Person Limited (Nathan Bransford, 11-2-12)
Four Tips for Writing Deep Point of View (Michelle Massaro, RT Book Review, 4-19-11)
The Challenges of First-Person POV (James Scott Bell, on Jane Friedman's site, 8-16-17)
Using Multiple Points of View: When and How Is It Most Effective? (Jordan Rosenfeld on Jane Friedman's site, 11-14-16)
What is point of view (Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, 10-18-12)
True and False: Two Kinds of Narrative Suspense (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-18-18) True suspense raises the question "What is going to happen next?" 'It causes a mental itch that can only be scratched by turning the page.' 'Point of view is ... the voice—the awareness, insights, and diction—of the narrator, not the author.' You can read more of Selgin's pieces archived on Jane Friedman's website.

The Challenge of Pulling Off a Dead Narrator (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-28-18)
Point of View in Fiction - What's Right and What's Wrong (Rob Parnell, with an example of how not to do it)
Point of View in Literature (theory and examples, Novel-Writing-Help.com)

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Voice (in fiction)

Voice in Fiction (Ginny Wiehardt, The balance, 4-24-17) "Voice (in fiction) is the author's style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality, and character; or the characteristic speech and thought patterns of the narrator of a work of fiction. Because voice has so much to do with the reader's experience of a work of literature, it is one of the most important elements of a piece of writing."
Voice in Fiction (Jill Hackett, author of I Gotta Crow: Women, Voice, and Writing, interviewed by the Seven Bridge Writers Collaborative). She explains her concept of the three voice centers: the voice from our head (the rational voice: ideas strike us and set off thoughts and plans), the voice from our hearts (the emotive voice: feelings, memories, longings, and passions), and our body voice (language of the gut, hunches, intuition) -- and talks about which are useful for plotting, which for character development and dialogue, etc.
Dear Author: Deciding on a Voice (David Colin Carr, on The Book Designer, 12-15-11)
Voice in Fiction: Notes on the Use of Close vs. Distant Narrative Voice (Susan Vreeland)
What Makes Fiction Good? It's Mostly the Voice (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, 6-11-13)
• Michael Straczynski in Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood: "He was so over the top that suddenly I got it: style was the pacing and flow of one word to another to create a melody that would carry the images, characters, and narrative straight to the brain, a specific, practiced rhythm that could be slowed or quickened depending on the mood or purpose of the story. Voice was who the writer actually was beneath it all: their attitude, point of view, and personality. A writer might move between a variety of styles—hard-boiled noir, gothic, baroque—but the same intelligence informed the story at every step. Literary styles can pass in and out of favor, or be shared by different writers (as Lovecraft borrowed stylistic tools from Lord Dunsany and Arthur Machen), but a writer’s voice is distinctly his or her own; it’s a one-off.
"Style was the clothes; voice was the body." [emphasis added]  Do you agree with this?

Find Your Narrative Voice (Joseph Bates, Writers Digest, excerpt from his book The Nighttime Novelist) Is there a distinction to be made between the novel’s voice and your voice? Or are they the same thing? Write without overthinking what happens, and take note of what patterns you see emerge in your work that might suggest your natural strengths in voice.
Point of View: Moving From Plural Perspective to Individual Perspective (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-25-19)
Remove filters to get your POV closer (Ron Seybold, Writers Workshop, 5-14-21) "He thought he could wrestle the gun from Steiner’s hand." becomes "He could wrestle the gun from Steiner’s hand."
How to Effectively Manage Multiple Narrators in Your Novel (Ken Brosky on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-14-2020) "There’s nothing wrong with using multiple narrators in a first-person story. But—and I think this is a big but—you need to ensure their voices are distinct."
How to write fiction: Meg Rosoff on finding your voice (The Guardian, 10-18-11) Your 'voice' lies somewhere between your conscious and subconscious mind. Finding that place is a challenging exercise in self-confrontation, says Meg Rosoff.
Voice in Fiction: A Favorite MFA/Writing Program Shibboleth (Anis Shivani, HuffPost, 5-25-11) What the heck are they talking about?

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Creating compelling characters


"I remember a table in Barchester Towers that had more character than the combined heroes of three recent novels I've read."

      ~Anatole Broyard

"She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together."

     ~ J.S. Salinger, A Girl I Knew

Writing Secondary Characters That Pop—And Sell More Books (Jennifer Probst, on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-24-17)
Who Makes It Happen? Giving Your Characters Agency (Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-5-2020) Your protagonist must directly influence or engineer her own destiny. If she doesn’t, she isn’t the hero; she’s a passenger in the story. <
Why Dickens Haunts Us (Maureen Dowd, NY Times, 12-24-22) 'Christmas morally radicalized Dickens. The disparity between the circumstances and fates of different people offended Dickens in the Christmas season....Dickens became an outsider looking in when his middle-class life got disrupted by cold, grinding reality: His father went to debtors’ prison and, at 12, Dickens had to leave school to work in a bootblacking factory in London....In “A Christmas Tree,” Dickens wrote, “I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding Hood, I should have known perfect bliss.” As Tatar explained: “She is the child in the woods who is the ultimate victim of the predatory. She is an innocent, powerless girl preyed upon by the rich and powerful. So you can think of Dickens as the first charter member of the MeToo movement.” Ebenezer Scrooge resonates just as strongly now because we remain absorbed with the comeuppance of the 1 percent.'
How True Is the Story Behind 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'? (Maria Carter, Country Living, 11-29-17) Based on the book The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford (which gets mixed reviews).

      From the article: The screen version of The Christmas Carol 'begins with a 31-year-old Dickens, newly rich and famous, renovating his new home and wracking his brain to think of the next big project to continue funding his lifestyle. That much is correct: producer Robert Mickelson tells NPR the author was a "literary rock star" by the time he was 30, thanks to novels like Oliver Twist, originally published as monthly serials when Dickens was in his mid-20s.
      'One of the film's wildest depictions is the author's habit of seeing and speaking out loud to his invented characters. But this is actually not far from the truth: Dickens considered his invented personalities "the children of his fancy," said Susan Coyne, the writer who adapted Standiford's book for the film. "Even when he was not working, he'd feel them tugging on his sleeve saying 'time to get back to work.'"
     'Mickelson echoed the notion in his interview with NPR: "Dickens would...take on the voices of all the different characters and make these faces in the mirror, and almost become the characters as he's writing." '
Character Arc Plot & Kurt Vonnegut’s Story Shapes (Eva Deverell)  A 2016 research study, inspired by Vonnegut’s work, analysed the emotional content of over 1700 English books and found that the emotional arcs correlated around 3 basic shapes, along with their 3 inverse curves:
   Rags to riches (rise)
   Tragedy or Riches to rags (fall)
   Man in a hole (fall-rise)
   Icarus (rise-fall)
   Cinderella (rise-fall-rise)
   Oedipus (fall-rise-fall)
Creating Character Arcs with the DCAST Method (Bucket Siler, 5-7-18) "Whereas plot arcs are about a character’s external journey (save the castle, get the girl, avoid prison); character arcs are about a character’s internal journey (fearful to courageous, shy to boisterous, miser to philanthropist). Character-driven stories focus heavily on this internal arc, whereas plot-driven stories may only lightly touch on it, and that’s okay." Character arcs can be positive, negative, flat, ambiguous, bittersweet, or some combination of these (explained).
Writing Strong Women. Various interviews with novelists who create strong women characters (BlogTalkRadio)
9 Ableist Tropes In Fiction I Could Do Without (Margaret Kingsbury, Book Riot, 2-21-22) Ableist stereotypes are so coded into storytelling that it becomes second nature for writers — particularly non-disabled writers — to use them. Disabled writer Amanda Leduc discusses this in her fantastic analysis combined with memoir Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space. There should be — must be — nuance in the way disabled characters are written.
Deepen Characterization by Mining Your Own Reactions(Tiffany Yates Martin on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-25-2 1) Pay attention to your own visceral reacions to what happens inside your body and files those reactions away to draw on to create rich characters in your stories.

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As White Writers, We Have to Stop Failing Our Black Characters (Naomi Nakashima, 12-16-2020) We need to collaborate with Black authors, learn more about what it means to see the world through the eyes of a Black character.
Protection of Fictional Characters (FindLaw Attorney Writers, 7-3-17) Focuses on the protection available for a "fictional character" (also referred to as a "literary character"), such as James Bond, Sam Spade, Sherlock Holmes or Hopalong Cassidy, who is first represented by a "word portrait" and then possibly at some later date by a graphic representation.
Emotional Truth and Storytelling: Why It Works and How (Robin Farmer on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-10-2020) Emotional truth is the lens that allows us to see ourselves in a story, resulting in a heartfelt connection in a fictional narrative. Ways to deepen reader's connection with characters.
Writers for Diversity Character Profile Worksheet (Eliana West) Her character profile worksheet is designed to help writers who are considering including a marginalized character in their fiction--to encourage new ways of thinking about such a character. Her workshop Writing Diversity in Genre Fiction is based on three main anchors: Racial identity, Building Your Story with Diversity, and, Avoiding Stereotypes. Eliana runs the Writers for Diversity Facebook group.
The Ethics of Empathy: Techniques for Portraying Antagonists in Contemporary Memoir (Wendy Staley Colbert, Brevity, 5-14-18) "For the drama to deepen, we must see the loneliness of the monster and the cunning of the innocent."
The 3 Ms of Character Setup ( C. S. Lakin [@cslakin)] on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-30-2020) For first impressions to occur as quickly on the page as in person, in developing characters focus on the three Ms: Mindset, motivation, and mood. Lakin teaches an onlline video course, Your Cast of Characters.

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How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act (K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors) "Just as in a positive change arc, the negative arc hinges on the Lie the Character Believes. In a positive arc, the Lie is about something the character is lacking (e.g., he believes he needs money in order to be happy). In a negative arc, however, the Lie is about something the character already possesses but devalues (e.g., he’s already filthy rich, but he fails to value or be responsible with his blessings)." See also FAQ: How to Write Character Arcs in a Series (K.M. Weiland, 10-12-14)
Bringing Your Characters to Life Through the “Five Whys” (Sarina Byron, Authors Publish) Starter questions for the Personality category: Leader or follower, fears/pet peeves, joys, flaws, talents, obsessions, planned or spontaneous, prize possessions, handwriting, how they view themselves, how they view others. And then the "five whys." Very helpful to a novice.
Easy Character Creation Through 25 Core Elements (Sarina Byron, Authors Publish) "The 4 elements to identify first and foremost are your character’s name/nickname, preferred gender, sexual preference, and appearance. Then personality, work, family history, and life circumstances.
• "Contradictions in human character are one of its most consistent notes." ~Muriel Spark
• "Finding the opposite of what you expect in a character is a good way to create depth and contour."~Jennifer Buxton Haupt
The 7 Rules of Picking Names for Fictional Characters (Elizabeth Sims, author of the Rita Farmer Mysteries, Writer's Digest, 8-28-12)
2. Get your era right.
3. Speak them out loud. (How will they sound in audio or speech-enabled versions?) 6. Think it through. (In "most crime fiction the murderer rarely has a middle name or initial. Why? Because the more you explicate the name, the more likely there’s a real person out there with it.")
The Political Lives of Characters (Siamak Vossoughi, Glimmer Train) "...once I feel that I can write about each character with an awareness that living is a hard one for them, then I think that political beliefs can be very revealing of who they are. A writer only runs the risk of being preachy or dogmatic if he or she makes a character of one political belief less three-dimensional and human than that of another."
Character chart (a form to fill out to get a firm grasp on your fictional character)
Character questionnaire, including Marcel Proust's questionnaire (Gotham Writers' Workshop)
How to create a character profile (The Lazy Scholar, on Writers Write)
Find your character's motivation (Kristen Kieffer, Well-Storied, 11-26-17)
Bill Roorbach on discovering his characters and rewriting (Joan Silverman, Press Herald, 10-5-14) In an interview, he talks about how he created the characters in his novel The Remedy for Love.
How to Evoke a Unique, Human Character—Not a Generic One (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog,9-11-19) Should you as an author ever find yourself torn between first and third-person, you can do worse than avail yourself of the free indirect method. It lets you have your cake and eat it, too.
Donating a character name to charity. One author who has done so twice recommends making it clear that it's first and last name only; that you are only using the name, not modeling the character after the person; and reserving the right to ask for a different name if the name that wins is "just too far out there" or trying to make a joke.
The Inner Struggle: How to Show a Character’s Repressed Emotions (Angela Ackerman on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-22-19) Signs of repressed emotion may include tics and tells; fight, flight, or freeze responses; and so on.
Don’t Let Your Characters Fall Into the Daily Routine Trap (Kayla Kauffman on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-11-22) Minimize or skip the irrelevant details of daily life (and other boring bits).

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Determining Your Character’s Emotional Range (Becca Puglisi, Writers in the Storm, 6-15-18) If a character is repressing an emotion, real-world behaviors can show it. Readers will catch on because they’ll recognize their own attempts to hide their feelings. Is your character demonstrative or reserved? Who is she comfortable with? and other questions to ask about your characters.
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi. See fu list of emotions here
How to Write Emotion and Depth of Character (Joanna Penn with Becca Puglisi, The Creative Penn, 2-12-18). See the book: The Emotion Thesaurus : A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
Writing the Scamp (audio, interesting discussion on Write Pack Radio) In this episode, the Write Pack celebrate Chinese author Lin Yutang and discuss his concept of a scamp. To Lin, the scamp is the character that stands between freedom and tyranny.

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The Outlaw's Journey: A Mythological Approach to Storytelling for Writers Behind Bars by Gloria Kempton.
How to Write a Bad Guy Readers Will Root For (Amanda Nicholson, Authors Publish
How to Describe Neurodivergent Characters (Martha Conway on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-26-18) "How do you describe Asperger’s before there was Asperger’s? Like my sister, May was born into a world that didn’t recognize the autism spectrum, and I realized that I had to find another way to describe her....There’s a reason autism is described as a spectrum, and not a fixed point." Interesting partly for the characters and writers mentioned as "on the spectrum."
How (and How Not!) to Write Queer Characters: A Primer (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-27-22) Tropes to avoid with LGBTQ+ characters and best practices for writing queer characters
Majority of authors 'hear' their characters speak, finds study (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 4-27-2020) Research on writers appearing at the Edinburgh international book festival reveals 63% listen to their creations, and 61% feel they have their own agency.
Character Motivation: How to Write Believable Characters (Reedsy, 8-17-18) Why do your protagonists do what they do? Every character needs to have motivations, no matter how unlikeable they are. But readers need your character’s motivations to be credible.
Top 10 most dislikable characters in fiction (Louise Candlish, The Guardian,12-20-2020) From Tom Wolfe’s ‘master of the universe’ to George Eliot’s vengeful pedant, these are some of the hardest characters in literature to love
How Reading (and Writing) Obituaries Can Improve Your Fiction (Kathleen McCleary, Writer Unboxed, 8-19-15)
Character, Writers, and Portrait Photography (Jeff Shear on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-22-18)
From the Roots of Character Grow the Branches of Plot (Josh Henkin, Glimmertrain)
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, with free sample entries here, on The Bookshelf Muse blog. See also the Character traits thesaurus (in sidebar: affectionate, ambitious, bossy, brave, etc.). The write-ups for each of these words make for interesting reading, whether you're writing fiction or a memoir!
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress
Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card
Writing About Addiction: It Often Takes Two Perspectives (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-13-18) "While most stories have a single protagonist, addiction narratives are usually about two people: the addict deep in the throes of their addiction, and the recovered narrator looking back objectively on the experience."
Inner Dialogue—Writing Character Thoughts (fiction editor Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog) She offers much practical insight!
Viewpoint Character and the Need to Choose Wisely (Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog) "Choosing a viewpoint character is a decision that must be made each time a writer faces a new scene....Too many viewpoint characters creates distance from the story, not intimacy."
Marking Time with the Viewpoint Character (Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog)

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The Perspective From Inside a Character (Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog)
Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster. A classic, lively "witty and opinionated" discussion (based on lectures given at Cambridge) of the fiction of Austen, Dickens, Fielding, Lawrence, Woolf, and others, noted especially for his discussion of "round" and "flat" characters.
Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell (drama needs conflict; Morrell explains the subtle but key differences between unlikeable protagonists, anti-heroes, dark heroes, and bad boys)
The Deuteragonist (K.D. Walker, Booksie, 8-9-11) A story centers around the struggle between protagonist and antagonist, Hero and Villain. Its focus comes from the Hero's Second, the deuteragonist (the foil, the turncoat, the catalyst, the wingman, the sidekick).
Write a Sympathetic Villain Your Readers Will Love to Hate (Neil Chase on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-10-22) Give them a good backstory and unique motivations, histories, and quirks. Explore their motivation and make them attractive in some way (think Hannibal Lechter). An antagonist is not always a villain.
9 Character Types to Include in Your Story (Kristina Adams, Writer's Cookbook, 2-15-18) Character roles common in fiction:  protagonist (main character), deuteragonist (second-in-command to the protagonist), antagonist (villain), mentor, narrator, secondary character (joins hero for hero's journey), tertiary characters, flat character (everything from bartenders to pets, who might enliven a scene).
The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues about the So-Called Psychopathic Personality by Hervey Cleckley, who co-authored Three Faces of Eve. Informing yourself about certain types of bad guy.
The Subtle Knife: Writing characters readers trust, but shouldn't (Angela Ackerman, guest blogging for Stina Lindenblatt)
How to Kill (a Character) (Susan J. Morris, Omnivoracious, 8-8-11). Part of Morris's Writers Don't Cry series of blogs on the craft of writing fiction.
13.48: Character Death and Plot Armor (Howard Taylor, Writing Excuses, 12-2-18)
Learning from The Wire (agent Nathan Bradsford on the value of complex characters)

Crafting a Crime Fiction Novel and Fifty Ways to Kill a Character (Hallie Ephron, Writer's Digest 4-18-12).
A reader's advice to writers: A word to the novelist on how to write better books by Laura Miller (Salon.com, 2-23-10). For example: "There's a reason why Nick Carraway is the narrator of "The Great Gatsby" while Gatsby himself is the protagonist. Desire is the engine that drives both life and narrative." And: "When you hear someone complain that 'nothing happens' in a work of fiction, it's often because the central character doesn't drive the action."
How to Create Fictional Characters (John Hewitt, writing prompts and exercises)

Protecting Fictional Characters Under U.S. Copyright Law (Richard Stim, NOLO) Fictional characters can be protected separately from their underlying works as derivative copyrights, provided that they are sufficiently unique and distinctive.


See also
    Point of View

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Description, place, setting, and details

Am including examples from both fiction and narrative nonfiction, as the principles apply in both genres; in nonfiction you draw them from observation or reporting, not your imagination.
The Significance of Place: An Interview with Barbara Henning (Rafael Otto interviews the poet-novelist)
Use Telling Details to Connect Description to Character (Joe Ponepinto on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-2-22) One key to compelling fiction is in how details are conveyed. Not everything warrants description—only details that matter to the character.
For some authors, inspiration arrives in high definition. Others see nothing at all. (Mikaella Clements, Washington Post, 1-2-22) 'The question of what writers “see” as they write is both fascinating and abstract. Research has found that some people, including authors, have no mind’s eye at all...How do authors picture their work as they write?" Not every writer is guided by a visual imagination.
Writing With Sharpness: Q&A with Elinor Lipman (Kristen Tsetsi on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-29-2020) "When I’d finished my first novel, Then She Found Me, my agent said about my narrator, 'If I wanted to buy her a present, I wouldn’t know what to get her.' That said it all, and guides me: What’s in her room? What does she wear or how does she adorn herself? Give the reader that much." Good on humor, description, and especially dialogue, and useful also for memoir writing.
When Cultures Collide: 3 Ways to Create Tension in Worldbuilding in a Novel (Greta Kelly, Writer's Digest,1-25-21) Worldbuilding is more than just drawing up a map and traveling from one place to another. In this post, Greta Kelly shows three ways to create tension in worldbuilding, especially as it relates to the various cultures of the world in your novel.

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Silence so dense it became its own sound (Nieman Storyboard, 5-25-21)“….” From a profile of place, by Dennis Lehane in his 2017 novel, "Since We Fell.
How to Track World-Building in a Fantasy Series (EJ Wenstrom, Writer's Digest, 7-4-19) Writing a fantasy series gets a little easier by tracking the details of the world you've created. EJ Wenstrom offers a few easy ways to manage the controlled chaos.
10 Steps to the Past: How to Do World Building Right in Historical Fiction (Rebecca D'Harlingue, Writer's Digest, 9-4-2020) There are many techniques that historical fiction writers employ to build believable worlds that existed in the past and still beckon to modern readers. Here is a peek at 10 techniques used by author Rebecca D'Harlingue and how she used them.
Unlocking the Secrets of Historical Fiction (Robert Lee Brewer, Writer's Digest, 8-20-2020) Bestselling author Wendy Holden shares how her latest story literally fell at her feet, what her best piece of writing advice is, and more!
Committing to Place (Marian Crotty, Glimmer Train, August 2018) "Paying attention to place...often addresses many of the common problems that plague the early stories of beginning writers—lack of detail and specificity, unrealistic characters and situations, and reliance on factual information that taxes readers instead of creating a sharp, sensory world that can simply be experienced. "
The Value of Touching Details (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-23-19) The world created in a work of fiction "should be credible...The point of fiction is to make believers out of us. Small details provide authenticity, making an invented world feel real enough to invest in emotionally."
The Long Light of Prose: An Interview with Lee Martin (Karin C. Davidson, Newfound, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2015)

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How to Make the Best Use of “Routine” Events in Your Fiction (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-21-18) On "dramatized routine": "When we read about routines in fiction, or in any kind of story, most if not all the pleasure we get from the experience derives from our anticipation of seeing the routine shattered, or, at the very least, disrupted.""The challenge isn’t to eliminate routine from our writing, but to render it in such a way that, while we anticipate its disruption, we’re also—if not exactly gripping the edges of our seats—sufficiently amused."
Robert Caro's speech on the power of setting (Andrea Pitzer's report for Nieman Storyboard 5-24-11)
How Your Book's Setting Can Affect Sales (blog entry on A Writer's Assistant)
“Why’s this so good?” No. 39: Gay Talese diagnoses Frank Sinatra (Maria Henson, Nieman Storyboard 4-24-12)
Getting the story: Luke Dittrich and the tornado (Paige Williams, Nieman Storyboard, 4-13-12)
How to Captivate Readers with Descriptive Writing that Rocks (Rita Kuehn, Writania)
How to write fiction: Adam Foulds on description with meaning (The Guardian, 10-20-11). Choose your words precisely and they will propel your plot forward, says Adam Foulds
Description in Fiction (Denise Robbins)
Creating Unforgettable Settings (Becca Puglisi, The Bookshelf Muse)
The Colors, Textures, Shapes Thesaurus (Angela Ackerman, The Bookshelf Muse).
The Weather Thesaurus (Angela Ackerman, The Bookshelf Muse).

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The Significance of Place: An Interview with Barbara Henning (Rafael Otto interviews the poet-novelist for Not Enough Night)
Robert Caro on the Power of Place (Andrea Pitzer's report on his talk at the Compleat Biographer conference, for Nieman Storyboard)
Six Novels Set in Abandoned Places (John Searles, Lit Hub, 3-25-22) Searles explores the allure of forgotten relics, locked places and unlocked time.
How Your Book's Setting Can Affect Sales (blog item on A Writer's Assistant)
Joyce Carol Oate speaking at Book Passage)' s (FORA.tv video) about her novel The Gravedigger's Daughter, much of which is based on her grandmother, Blanche Morningstar. She speaks of setting as being almost like a character.(51 minutes)

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.” – Somerset Maugham

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Dialogue, tips on improving

Dialogue is “the least teachable part of writing.” ~ Aaron Sorkin

Dialogue: Something to Talk About (Gregory Wolos, Glimmer Train, Jan. 2019) 'So "natural," "realistic" dialogue—the kind I still look forward to as a breath of fresh air in a dense text—is actually a subterfuge. Like everything else in a work of fiction, quoted words and phrases are inventions created to serve the purposes of the author. Paradoxically, because the meaning behind spoken language may be subtle, understanding it might demand more, not less, of the reader.'
Quick guide to punctuating dialogue,American style
     "This is a line of dialogue," she said.
     "This," he said, "is a sentence split by a speech tag."
     "This is a full sentence," she said. "This is a new sentence."
     "This is a sentence followed by an action." He smiled. "They are separate sentences, because I didn't speak by smiling."

      ~ From the Ask a Book Editor Facebook page.
The Art and Purpose of Subtext (DiAnn Mills on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-20-22) Subtext refers to characters who talk about one thing but really mean something else, and they both know it. And we’ve all done it, right? The subtext is the real conversation hidden by surface talk and is the core of the communication.
The Difference Between a Tag and a Beat (Michele Hauck, It's In the Details, 8-11-14) "Tags and beats go with dialogue. Basically a tag is a sentence where you use 'said, asked, whispered' [etc.] -- any word that indicates someone is speaking. A beat is an action. Your character is doing something while talking. Beats involve things like smiling, frowning [etc.]" Tags take a comma ("Where's your bio?" Brenda asked.). Beats take a period. ("I like a challenge." She did a happy dance.) Handle a tag and a beat as if one sentence: (Jo smirked and said,"Mrs. Garrett always has a headache.")
He Said, She Said: Dialog Tags and Using Them Effectively (Dawn Boeder Johnson, Writing Academy, Scribophile)
Dialogue Tags: What Are They and How To Use Them (Kellie McGann, The Write Practice) "Writers encounter dialogue every day, but too often recently I’ve seen great stories ruined by choppy, incoherent, and straight-up weird dialogue." You may find what you're looking for in the 160 comments.
Lesson I: Dialog Tags (James Carmack, Palidor Media Editor's Room) "There are two scenarios where you can omit the dialog tags. One is where the last sentence in the preceding paragraph of narrative IDs the speaker. The other is a prolonged exchange between two characters. This second case only works for two speakers."
Dialogue Tags (Fiction Writers Mentor) Absolutely never use tags like grinned, laughed or smiled -- at least not like this:  "Go away," she frowned.
What Your Choice of Dialogue Tags Says About You (Christopher Hoffmann on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-6-2020)
Another Take on Dialogue Tags (fiction editor Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog, 12-4-13)
Dialogue in Fiction (Robert Fisk?)
10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue (Ali Luke, WritetoDone)
Writing Dialogue: The 5 Best Ways to Make Your Characters’ Conversations Seem Real (Scott Francis, Writer's Digest, 2-14-12)
Creating Effective Dialogue (William H. Coles, Editors' Opinions blog, 8-22-09)
When Characters Speak: Formatting Dialogue (Carol Saller, CMOS Shop Talk, 7-9-19) Various differing approaches, because creativity in formatting is acceptable in a novel.
Writing Good Dialogue in a Novel (Lia Weston, via Steve Rossiter, Writing Novels in Australia 6-13-13)
Characterization Through Dialogue (Francesca Pelaccia)
• In Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway writes: 'Vernacular is a tempting, and sometimes excellent, means of characterizing, but it is difficult to do well and easy to overdo. Dialect, regionality, and childhood are best communicated by word choice and syntax. Misspellings should be kept to a minimum because they distract and slow the reader, and worse, they tend to make the character seem stupid. There is no point in spelling phonetically any word as it is ordinarily pronounced: Almost all of us say things like "fur" for for, "uv" for of, "wuz" for was, "an" for and, and "sez" for says. It's common to drop the g in words ending in ing. When you misspell these words in dialogue, you indicate that the speaker is ignorant enough to spell them that way when writing.' And more.
• Often writers tag dialogue with something like “she smiled” or “he laughed,” as if dialogue can be “laughed” or “smiled” (it’s not; it’s spoken). That it’s done all the time by reputable writers in published books makes it no less objectionable—to me.
“Now, your turn,” she said, smiling. --Peter Selgin

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MFA literary fiction vs. NYC

Must reading for instructors and participants in Master in Fine Arts programs:
How Iowa Flattened Literature (Eric Bennett, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2-10-14). With CIA help, writers were enlisted to battle both Communism and egg-headed abstraction. The damage to writing lingers.
For More Inclusive Writing, Look to How Writing Is Taught (Laila Lalami, NY Times, 1-19-2021) Is it time to rethink the writing workshop? "The workshop model that started at the University of Iowa in 1936 and grew in popularity during the Cold War encouraged a view of fiction as separate from politics, racial or otherwise. Students were taught to produce concrete renderings of individual experience, with greater focus on personal agency than on social or historical circumstances. These principles were referred to as craft, and distilled to what are now considered universal truths: A good story should be driven by character, not plot." Matthew Salesses argues in his book Craft in the Real World,“what we call craft is in fact nothing more or less than a set of expectations. … These expectations are never neutral.” Full title: Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping
The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing by Mark McGurl, who "describes in detail how the institutionalization of creative writing 'has transformed the conditions under which American literature is produced' and how that has 'converted the Pound Era into the Program Era.'”―Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education. (Read more comments on its Amazon page.)
How America Taught the World to Write Small (Eric Bennett, Chronicle of Higher Education, 9-28-2020) It exported a literature of individualism and domesticity — not one of solidarity and big ideas.
Winning the Game You Didn’t Even Want to Play: On Sally Rooney and the Literature of the Pose (LitHub, 9-15-21) Stephen Marche considers contemporary fiction’s slow abandonment of literary voice. The literature of the voice is dying. The literature of the pose has arrived.
A Master’s in Chick Lit (Karin Gillespie, Draft, NY Times, 4-16-14). The view from the other side.
The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar (Jack Hitt, NY Times, 6-12-18) Two decades ago, a renowned professor promised to produce a flawless version of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated novels: “Ulysses.” Then John Kidd disappeared.
The Privilege of Plotlessness (Lynn Steger Strong, LitHub, 12-18-17)  "When this summer I got the ever elusive there’s a gap in our schedule again email, I proposed a class on plotlessness....The Rules of the Game...rejected at first as frivolous and pointless, plotless and about rich people at a time when the world was falling down."
Lit Mag Submissions 101: How, When, and Where to Send Your Work (Lincoln Michel, Authors Guild)
What Julio Cortázar Might Teach Us About Teaching Writing (Pasha Malla, New Yorker, 10-23-17) "With its focus on craft, the traditional writing workshop largely limits the instruction of writing to aesthetics—and so mostly precludes broader conversations that might provoke students to consider content as well as form. One of the goals of this scheme is to avoid instructing the student on what to say, and, instead, to focus on how to say it better. In practice, though, it isolates the act of writing from much of what informs literary work. In a piece for the Times in April, the writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, recently named a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, described his frustrations with this approach as he experienced it as an undergraduate, at Berkeley. “As a young aspiring writer, I was troubled by how these [Iowa workshop influenced] workshops, aside from the ‘art’ of writing, did not have anything to say about the matters that concerned me: politics, history, theory, philosophy, ideology.”...One can take such critiques further: on Literary Hub, last fall, Namrata Poddar argued that one of the classic commandments of the writing workshop, “show don’t tell,” was, as she put it, a “colonial relic,” which ignores the power of “orality” in literary traditions around the world.
‘I Just Don’t Find American Literature Interesting’: Lit-Blog Pioneer Jessa Crispin Closes Bookslut, Does Not Bite Tongue (Boris Kachka, Vulture, 5-3-16) "I find MFA culture terrible. Everyone is super-cheerful because they’re trying to sell you something, and I find it really repulsive. There seems to be less and less underground. And what it’s replaced by is this very professional, shiny, happy plastic version of literature."
Why Pursue Traditional Publishing? (Are There Enough Good Reasons?) (Kristen Tsetsi, on Jane Friedman, 11-20-17) "(If Nathaniel Hawthorne’s heavy-handed symbolism was “literary,” I thought, I’d take commercial.I’ve since learned that in addition to a complex algorithm measuring sparseness, inventiveness of style, and the plot-to-character ratio, in what way breasts are described—and how long the author has been dead—has much to do with whether fiction qualifies as “literary.”...I found the MFA program to be incredibly valuable, personally....Paying tuition for time to do nothing but write can be inspiring. It’s also creatively energizing to sit in a room full of other writers who like to talk about writing. On a more professional level, the workshop environment introduces writers to critiques and criticisms alike and (ideally) trains them to know which comments to apply and which to ignore, and to seriously consider them all. But there’s also an underlying nod to the value of being Published." Workshops center around the short story, not the novel.
Literature Class, Berkeley 1980 by Julio Cortázar, trans. Katherine Silver. “I want you to know that I’m not a critic or theorist, which means that in my work I look for solutions as problems arise.” So begins the first of eight classes that the great Argentine writer Julio Cortázar delivered at UC Berkeley in 1980. “He was, perhaps without trying, the Argentine who made the whole world love him.” - Gabriel García Márquez
MFA vs. POC (Juno Díaz, New Yorker, 4-30-14) A condensed version of his intro to Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop. The Cornell program had no POC (people of color). "Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all." He helped found a workshop for writers of color: The Voices of Our Nation Workshop.
I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry (J.C. Sevcik, The Stranger, 3-4-15) "An instructor with an ethos of exacting excellence by means of brutal expectations probably doesn't belong in a hippy college full of sensitive snowflakes."
Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One (Ryan Boudinot, The Stranger, 2-27-15)
How the Literary Class System Is Impoverishing Literature: On the systemic economic barriers to being a writer (Lorraine Berry, LitHub, 12-4-15) On carving out a place for working-class experience in a system that is slanted toward those who can afford and have access to higher education followed by low-paying internships in publishing (and so on).
Nobody cares about your book: Why that “Things I Can Say About MFAs” essay struck such a nerve with writers (Laura Miller, Salon, 3-4-15) A former writing instructor causes outrage by trashing his old job and students -- but he makes some good points
An Interview with Ryan Boudinot About His MFA Piece That Blew Up the Internet (Christopher Frizzelle, The Stranger, 3-3-15)
5 Unexpected Lessons From Inside the Iowa Writers’ Workshop (Jessica Strawser, Writer's Digest 3-18-13)
The Portable MFA in Creative Writing by New York Writers Workshop. Tips on fiction, memoirs, personal essays, magazine articles, poetry, and playwriting (and in part a critique of MFA programs, from "the only teacher-founded, teacher-run writing collective in New York City")
Iowa Writers' Workshop
The MFA Blog (a creative writing community)
Unfinished Work (The New Republic, 4-24-19) Maggie Doherty on the Iowa Writers’ Workshop’s history of institutional sexism, entitled male instructors, and feminist resistance.

Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Famous for Training Top Writers, Turns 75 (transcript of short PBS documentary, 4-7-11) and an interview with director Lan Samantha Chang
Creative Writing, via a Workshop or the Big City: ‘MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction’ (Dwight Garner, NY Times, 2-25-14) Review of MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, ed. by Chad Harbach
The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing by Mark McGurl (how some of our top writers have influenced and been influenced by Creative Writing programs)
Bucking the establishment:How self-published writers can sidestep literary-world snubs (Jennifer Levin, Pasatiempo, 2-6-15) “The MFA is essentially a pyramid scheme that creates lots of people with terminal degrees in literary writing who have no employable skills other than teaching terminal degrees in literary writing,” [Jonathan] Penton said. “So unless this expands forever, the market will eventually collapse....This level of competition means that such graduates need to have published books to secure even adjunct teaching positions, so micropublishing, Penton said, has become the backbone of the MFA industry. He concedes that, at the tenured level, mainstream publication continues to be a requirement, so anyone hoping for real success in academia still needs to work toward that."
Creative Writing MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Graduate Students by Tom Kealey. See also Why MFA? The Rumpus Interview with Tom Kealey and Robin Tung (Ryan Pittington, The Rumpus, 8-1-14) About the process of applying for an MFA program.
Fiction MFA Application Advice from Elizabeth McCracken (Jason Boog, Galley Cat, 10-23-13) As tweeted. "Letters of recommendation also mostly exist to verify you're not a crazy person." "One of the best letters of recommendation I ever read happened to be by someone's coworker at a warehouse."
For Writers' Program, a New Pedagogy (Dinitia Smith, NY Times, 4-18-05)
Iowa Writers’ Workshop (C. Piper, The Gist, 5-17-11)
Batuman’s Take Down of MFA Literary Fiction (Robert Fay)
Get a Real Degree (Elif Batuman, London Review of Books, 9-2010), in a review of McGurl's book, Batuman writes: "The central claims of The Programme Era are beyond dispute: the creative writing programme has exercised the single most determining influence on postwar American literary production, and any convincing interpretation of the literary works themselves has to take its role into account. (In a series of inspired readings, McGurl demonstrates that the plantation in Beloved, the mental ward in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the bus in Robert Olen Butler’s Mr Spaceman all function as metaphors for the creative writing workshop.) McGurl also provides a smart and useful typology of ‘programme’ fiction (defined as the prose work of MFA graduates and/or instructors), divided into three main groups: ‘technomodernism’ (John Barth, Thomas Pynchon), ‘high cultural pluralism’ (Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros) and ‘lower-middle-class modernism’ (Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates), with Venn diagrams illustrating the overlap between these groups, and their polarisation by aesthetic sub-tendencies such as maximalism and minimalism." (But read the whole thing!)
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman, See review: A return to literary classics, with a twist (David Matlin, The National 5-23-11)
Show or Tell: Should creative writing be taught? (Louis Menand, The New Yorker 6-8-09) About creative writing workshops, especially the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
How Has the MFA Changed the Contemporary Novel? (Richard Jean So and Andrew Piper, The Atlantic, 3-6-16) "Creative writing has become a big business—it’s estimated that it currently contributes more than $200 million a year in revenue to universities in the U.S....Is it possible to tell the difference between novels that have been through the meat-grinder of the MFA and those that haven’t?...What if this debate, furious as it is, is just a distraction from more important questions surrounding creative writing, like problems of diversity within publishing or financial exploitation on the part of universities?"
A “Real Job”: The Legitimacy of Creative Writing (Kara Cochran, FictionSoutheast, 3-4-15)
Poets & Writers MFA Program Database (information about low- and full-residency graduate creative writing programs in the United States and other English-speaking countries)
AWP Guide to Writing Programs (Association of Writers and Writing Programs)
The Top 25 Underrated Creative Writing MFA Programs (2011-2012) (Seth Abramson, Huffpost, 6-18-11)
Fully Funded Programs (The MFA Years). A list of MFA and MA programs that fully fund ALL of their students--fully funded meaning "provides both tuition remission and a stipend to EVERY admitted student."
The Top 25 Underrated Creative Writing MFA Programs (2011-2012) (Seth Abramson, Huff Post, 4-18-11)
Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP)

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Genre fiction and fiction genres and subgenres

Why know the types of genres and subgenres? Fans tend to look for books in particular subgenres, and books in some subgenres sell better than books in other subgenres. So if you want to sell a lot of books, it may help to know where the richest sales might come more easily. Listen to Nicholas Erik on Branding and How to Leverage your Backlist for Longevity (Episode 083 of the Wish I'd Known Then podcast, with Jamie Albright and Sara Rosett) Start at minute 8. Check out also Lee Strauss on Finding Your Genre Sweet Spot in Historical Mystery On the other hand:
How Important Is Genre When Pitching and Promoting Your Book? Sangeeta Mehta in Q&A with literary agents T.S. Ferguson and Laura Zats (on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-23-22) discuss the usefulness and limits of assigning a genre to writing, and how it’s perceived by publishers and readers. Zats loves working with cross-genre or genre-bending work, but "crucially, every book still has a primary genre....

     "A lot of genre fiction runs on much shorter publication timelines and work best as series, so unless you can commit to writing 1.5–2 books a year, you’re going to be considered a slow producer. Plus, I think a lot of writers mistake formulaic for easy. Genre books aren’t just plug-and-play; their magic comes from how a writer innovates and twists the common tropes while simultaneously giving a genre reader the beats and themes they expect a genre book to have. You simply cannot write a successful or even good mystery or romance or thriller without being an avid fan and reader of those genres and understanding intimately the pacing and tropes that make them so popular." Read this whole piece!
How one author went from $0 to selling $40k a month on Amazon (video, MG Herron, 1hr24min) Have lots of products because a fan of #1 book is an easy sell on #2, 3, and 4 etc. books)

Class, Race and the Case for Genre Fiction in the Canon (Adrian McKinty, Literary Hub, 9-27-17) "Authors should write about whatever they damn well please but they would do well to remember there is a huge class of people who don’t ever read a novel because none of the books they hear about in the media are about people like them. The outsiders who don’t think they could ever be a writer are exactly the kind of people who should write."
A Better Way to Think About the Genre Debate (Joshua Rothman, New Yorker, 11-6-14) "There are period genres (Victorian literature), subject genres (detective fiction), form genres (the short story), style genres (minimalism), market genres ("chick-lit"), mode genres (satire), and so on." Plus an interesting discussion of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Why Genre Matters (Los Angeles Review of Books, 8-23-13). This conversation began as a panel at AWP — the annual convention for creative writing programs and teachers — with Dinah Lenney, Sven Birkerts, Judith Kitchen, Scott Nadelson, and David Biespiel.

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Genre Descriptions (Fiction) (Agent query) Adventure, chick lit, children's, Christian, commercial, crime, erotica, family saga, fantasy, gay & lesbian, graphic novels, historical fiction, horror, humor/satire, literary, middle grade, military/espionage, multicultural, mystery, new adult, offbeat/quirky, romance, science fiction, short stories, thrillers, suspense, Western, women's fiction, young adult
Sub-Genre Descriptions (Michael J. Vaughn, Writers Digest, 3-19-08). Excellent breakdown of subgenres for these genres: romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime.
Book Genre Finder Handy site for finding fiction, nonfiction, and children's-book genres and subgenres.
Fiction genres, described (Writing to Publish) and subgenres (for example, in Westerns alone there are Australian, Black Cowboy (buffalo soldier), Bounty Hunter, Cattle Drive, Civil War, Cowpunk (outrageous cross-genre), Doctor and Preacher, Eurowestern, Gunfighter, Humorous or Parody, Indian wars, Land Rush, Lawmen (Texas Rangers), Mexican wars (Texan independence), Modern Indians, Mormon, Outlaw, Prairie Settlement, Prospecting (gold rushes), Quest, Railroad, Range wars (sheepmen), Revenge, Romance. Town-tamer. Trapper or Mountain Man. Wagon Train. Women)
Thriller subgenres (Writing to Publish): Aviation thrillers, comedic thrillers, conspiracy, disaster, ecothrillers, espionage, exploration, legal, medical, mercenary, paranormal or supernatural, political, psychological, religious, romantic, survivalist, technothrillers, treasure hunter.
• Data Guy, Author Earnings.com: We're Going to Need a Bigger Ship: Uncloaking the Missing Half of the SF&F Market. Science fiction subgenres are listed separately from fantasy subgenres:
---Science fiction subgenres (in descending order of ebook sales): Military, Adventure, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Space Opera, First Contact, Alien Invasion, Genetic Engineering, Galactic Empire, Hard Science Fiction, Colonization, Cyberpunk, Space Exploration, Time Travel, Exploration, TV, Movie, VideoGame Adaptations, Metaphysical & Visionary, Steampunk, Alternative History, Classics, Anthologies & Short Stories, Alternate History, Anthologies, LGBT, Humorous, Short Stories.
---Fantasy subgenres (in descending order of ebook sales): Paranormal & Urban, Epic, Sword & Sorcery, Coming of Age, Romantic, Historical, New Adult & College, Superhero, Myths & Legends, Fairy Tales, Metaphysical & Visionary, Dark Fantasy, Action & Adventure, TV, Movie , Video Game Adaptations, Magical Realism, Military, Humorous, Alternate History, Anthologies & Short Stories, Dragons & Mythical Creatures, Classics, LGBT, Anthologies,Arthurian, Christian Fantasy, Gaslamp.
Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Sub-Genres (World Without End) Science fiction subgenres, for example: Alien Invasion, Alternate History (SF), Alternate/Parallel Universe, Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic, Artificial Intelligence,Colonization, Cyberpunk, Dying Earth, Dystopia, First Contact, Galactic Empire, Generation Ship, Hard SF, Human Development, Immortality, Light/Humorous SF, Military SF, Mind Uploading, Mundane SF, Mutants, Mythic Fiction (SF), Nanotechnology, Near-Future. Pulp, Robots/Androids, Science-Fantasy, Singularity, Slipstream, Soft SF, Space Exploration, Space Opera, Steampunk, Terraforming, Theological, Time Travel, Uplift, Utopia, Virtual Reality, Weird (SF).
35 Genres and Other Varieties of Fiction
The Literary/Genre Fiction Continuum (from easy to difficult, very brief)
The Sub-Genres of Horror (Eric J. Guignard)
LibraryReads and NoveList team up to offer genre education (Rebecca Vnuk, NoveList, 12-20-18) A series of genre webinars, a 101 crash course for librarians in some of the more popular genres, was designed to give librarians a sense of why readers are drawn to each genre; some tips for talking with fans; key books in the genre to know; sub-genres and crossover titles to keep in mind; and tips for searching NoveList for themes, appeal terms, and genre information and more. Of possible interest to non-librarians, too.

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From ‘Fifty Shades’ to ‘After’: Why publishers want fan fiction to go mainstream (Jessica Contrera, Wash Post, 10-24-14)
Guy Gavriel Kay: ‘I learned a lot about false starts from JRR Tolkien’ (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 10-29-14) Thirty years ago, the first in Kay’s bestselling Fionovar Tapestry fantasy trilogy was published – but before that, a stint helping Christopher Tolkien edit and assemble The Silmarillion showed him the ‘drudgery and mistakes’ that lie behind every great work.
Why Fan Fiction Is The Future of Publishing (Oliver Jones, Daily Beast, 2-9-15) "Not long ago, fan fiction was considered by the publishing world as little more than the literary equivalent of an annoying copycat little brother. But what was once viewed as either uncreative, a legal morass of copyright issues, or both, is now seen as a potential savior for a publishing industry still finding its moorings in the age of digital media."
What Makes Literary Fiction Literary? (Nathan Bransford, agent turned author, 2-26-07)
Exploring the Different Types of Fiction (Sarah Parsons Zackheim and Adrian Zackheim
Thinking Fiction: Categories of Fiction (Carolyn Haley, on An American Editor, 8-24-15) Geared to editors of fiction.
Fiction Categories And Genres (Writer's Digest University)
Ursula Le Guin Has Earned a Rare Honor. Just Don’t Call Her a Sci-Fi Writer. (David Streitfeld, NY times, 8-28-16) “I don’t want to be reduced to being ‘the sci-fi writer.’ People are always trying to push me off the literary scene, and to hell with it.”
A Case for Withdrawing the Genre of “Christian Fiction” (Literary Hug, 12-15-21) Chelsea Leah on (Non-Religiously) Reading Religious Books. It’s time to stop sheltering these novels behind a religious curtain and encourage them to share the same shelf space with other authors just like themselves. Let’s allow the books to shine on their own.

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Literary genres (Wikipedia's long barebones list)
Fiction Genres (agent Mark Malatesta's list). See his Book Genre Dictionary.
Book Country (a place to discover, share, and sell fiction). At this interesting Penguin Books fiction-community site (read its revealing FAQ) you can sell your fiction eBooks and you can post chapters of genre fiction to be peer-reviewed.
35 Genres and Other Varieties of Fiction (Mark Nichol, DailyWritingTips)
A Complete Guide to the Types of Novels
(Finding Your Market)
(Harvey Chapman)
Why Are So Many Literary Writers Shifting into Genre? (Kim Wright, The Millions, 9-2-11) Is it a mass sellout, a belated and half-hearted attempt by writers to chase the market? Or are two disparate worlds finally merging?
Storyville: What is Literary Fiction? (Richard Thomas, Lit Reactor, 8-1-13) Literary fiction is generally considered to be the opposite of genre fiction.
Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre Fiction Is Disruptive Technology (Lev Grossman, Time, 5-23-12) How science fiction, fantasy, romance, mysteries and all the rest will take over the world.
Writing Cross-Genre Novels: Trends, Marketing & Insights (Kevin Tumlinson, Draft2Digital, 6-2019).Can we mix genres and double, maybe even triple our readership? Can we even market our novels properly afterwards?
Beware of Blending One Too Many Literary Devices (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-2-19) In a story that straddles multiple genres or narrators, they can't all have equal weight. Avoid confusion by making one dominant and others subordinate.
Literary Fiction Is a Genre: A List (Edan Lepucki, The Millions, 10-22-12) Let's consider literary fiction as a straightforward genre, like romance or science fiction, with certain expected tropes and motifs.
Fiction Freelancing: Part IV – Editing Genre Fiction (Louise Harnby interviews Marcus Trower, 11-2-13). Trower's tag line: Copy editing for fiction authors in general and crime writers in particular.

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Mystery, suspense, thrillers, crime novels, and cozies

(a potpourri, in random order!)

"The mystery story is two stories in one: the story of what happened and the story of what appeared to happen."~ Mary Roberts Rinehart

Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it's a letdown, they won't buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.” ~ Mickey Spillane

Tess Gerritson was asked: What makes for a good mystery?

She responded:

"Characters with powerful voices and with lives in crisis. The crime itself almost doesn't matter. I read one crime novel where there was no murder at all, yet the story sucked me in because I could hear that heroine's voice in my head and identify with the unease she was going through. Some readers believe they're drawn to a book by thrills and danger, but I'm drawn to a book because of psychological tension and a steady twist of the screw."~ The New York Times

The Dark Reality Behind ‘Cozy Mysteries’ (Alyse Burnside, The Atlantic, 9-21) The genre's popularity can feel like a relic of a bygone era-but these books share DNA with today's bloodier thrillers. My first exposure to the strange, inoculated world of "cozy mysteries" came during a long road trip with my older sister. The cozy is devoid of gore, the real pleasure of the mystery being "the puzzle itself." "The genre has begun shedding its protective cocoon, tackling the kinds of real-world struggles that many of its readers may have come to the books to escape: prejudice, financial insecurity, mental illness."

The State of the Mystery: Part 1 of a Roundtable Discussion (CrimeReads, via Mystery Writers of America, 4-24-19) The 2019 Edgar Award Nominees Address the Genre's Most Pressing Questions and Part 2. Among questions asked: How do you define a "crime novel"? Which authors paved the way for what you write now? What advice would you pass on to writers just starting out? Which author first got you hooked on crime? Are you more criminal than detective? How has crime fiction changed since you started? What's the most pressing issue facing the mystery world?
How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America ed. by Lee Child with Laurie R. King
MWA Edgar winners A list of "best mystery novel" award winners to take with you when you're looking for a good mystery in the library or bookstore.
How to Write Mysteries by Shannon O'Cork (Writer's Digest books) How to use the tropes of genre to create a book that will sell.
How to Write a Cozy Mystery by Nina Harrington
How to write a thriller, from someone who just published their debut novel (Nina Campbell, Her Canberra, 3-29-22) "There are as many ways to write as there are writers, but most of us sit somewhere on a spectrum between plotters, who work out the story before they start writing, and ‘pantsers’, who plunge into a story empty-handed and write by the seat of their pants."...and "You’re telling the self the story for the first time, and it will definitely need work. When editing Daughters of Eve, I wrote 40,000 new words and deleted 10,000. You can’t edit a blank page, but you can polish an imperfect one."

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Writers' Police Academy (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, June 2022) A chance for writers to participate in many of the same hands-on training classes, basic and advanced, taught to Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, and Corrections personnel. Sessions are typically reserved only for professionals. See Dana Stabenow's account of attending the Police Academy Training for Writers.

The Crime Fiction Writer's Blog (D.P. Lyle) The science of crime, the art of fiction. Eleven writers and publishing professionals blog about publishing, marketing, and writing mysteries and thrillers. See, for example, Criminal Mischief: Episode #43: Gunshot Wound Analysis .
A Better Way to Write About Crime (Kate Cray, The Books Briefing, The Atlantic, 9-24-21) "In traditional crime stories, sharp detectives (usually police officers and almost always white men) piece together trails of evidence to avenge grisly killings (typically of young white women) and achieve justice. They offer neat visions of how crimes are carried out and solved, casting people as either heroes, villains, or victims. They’re also deeply misleading.
      'In recent years, many writers have begun to take aim at these flawed tropes. They critique the genre, and in doing so help create a new—and better—way of writing about crime. For authors of the “cozy mysteries” subgenre, this reckoning has meant acknowledging reality in books predicated on willful ignorance. Conventional cozies lean into clue-finding and downplay gore, but new writers such as Mia P. Manansala are disrupting that fantasy with story lines about police misconduct and racism. Less cozy novels, such as Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, destabilize our most fundamental assumptions about what constitutes a crime.'
       'Pola Oloixarac, the author of Mona, similarly complicates the roles that crime-novel characters are allowed to fill, writing about a woman who was herself raped, and who is also pursuing an amateur investigation of a different crime. In blending two genres—each with its own flaws (crime fiction tends to sensationalize and literary fiction is filled with passive women)—Oloixarac was able to write sensitively and without denying her character agency.'

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Mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and cozies: Recommended reading
On Rape Narratives and the Surprising Value of Plot (Lily Meyer, The Atlantic, 5-2-21) "More and more crime writers are placing survivors, not detectives, at the center of their novels, thereby focusing less on assault or its perpetrators than on the mental progressions of those who have been hurt. A pair of recent literary novels about the aftermath of assault, Pola Oloixarac’s Mona and Anna Caritj’s Leda and the Swan, bring this crime-fiction strategy into their own field. These works suggest that, especially where complex stories about sexual assault are concerned, mixing genres can open up our storytelling capacities, giving writers—and readers—access to ever more empathy and nuance."
What About Ann Rule? (Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell,CrimeReads, 11-10-21) An ode to the original queen of true crime, who focused on victims, not perpetrators; lessons, not details; and loss, not violence. When Ann left her job as a policeman and began to sit at her typewriter, telling the stories of murdered women in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, she also began to pave the way for a different type of storytelling when it comes to murder. She began a feminist text of true crime.
Val McDermid and Sue Black on crime fiction v crime fact - video (Xan Brooks and Cameron Robertson, video of discussion at Edinburgh International Book festival, 8-20-12). Crime writer Val McDermid, best known for creating Wire in the Blood detective Carol Jordan and criminal psychologist Tony Hill, and Professor Sue Black, of the University of Dundee's Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, talk to Xan Brooks about dismemberment, their bid to make forensic science more accessible, and their Million for a Morgue project - which includes a killer cookbook. This and other videos from same festival, online.

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Launching today: CrimeReads (LitHub Daily, 3-9-18) Literary Hub launches CrimeReads, a new website showcasing the best writing from the worlds of crime, mystery, and thrillers.

Suspense Magazine (suspense, mystery, horror, and thriller fiction--"Anxiety at the highest level!")
Crime Scene Writers (an online group). This crime scene group has professionals from all the law enforcement agencies and forensics groups who can answer factual questions.
Secrets of writing bestselling crime thrillers--with Sue Coletta. In this Q&A on Garry Rodgers' excellent Dying Words blog, Coletta does a once-over-lightly-but-helpfully on story structure, point of view, character, show vs. tell, voice, prologues, date and time prompts and sub-heads, profanity, sex scenes, self-proofing, and use of commas.
Vintage WD: Decoding the Secrets to Selling Popular Fiction, Part 1 (Roy Sorrels and Megan Daniel, Writer's Digest, April 1981) Vintage advice, resurrected, with typos but still worth a look. Followed by Part 2, analyzing both good and bad examples in your chosen genre to see what works and what doesn't. "Get a feel for the real people who buy and read the kind of books you want to write, then write for them. You are a storyteller, after all, and it's always easier and more fun to tell stories to real people."
Q&A with bestselling author Kerry Lonsdale! (Fuse Literary, 7-12-17) Kerry Lonsdale is the #1 Kindle and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the EVERYTHING series of suspense fiction. Her debut novel Everything We Keep reached over 1 million readers in the first year.
How to Write Deadly Crime Thrillers (free on entering your email address: "No BS Guide with 101 Killer Tips," from Garry Rodgers, retired homicide detective and forensic coroner, now bestselling crime writer). Worth signing up to get reminders of blog posts, about both true crime and crime fiction.

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Edna Buchanan's Miami (Sarah Weinman,CrimeReads, 7-16-19) She was Edna Rydzik in Jersey. In Miami, she was the hardboiled crime writer who defined an era and left a complex legacy. "The Buchanan I knew best was less the crime reporter and more the crime novelist, though both career facets are inexorably intertwined." See also Calvin Trillin's story in the New Yorker, Covering the Cops (2-17-86), and watch David Letterman's 1988 interview with her (YouTube, starting at about minute 32).
Crime Fiction Academy (The Center for Fiction) Founded in 2012, The Crime Fiction Academy is the first program exclusively dedicated to crime writing in all its forms. Workshops, master class events, crime fiction slam.
Books for Fiction Writers (Writers and Editors)
Murder Must Advertise (a free email discussion list about how to promote a new mystery book)
The guilty vicarage: Notes on the detective story, by an addict by W.H. (Wystan Hugh) Auden (Harper's Magazine, May 1948)
The mystery of mysteries: What really keeps us reading (Mark Kingwell, The Globe and Mail, 5-18-12)
The Graveyard Shift (Lee Lofland's blog, a guide to "all things cops and robbers")
How to Write High-Volume Fiction in a Sustainable Way with Toby Neal (Joanna Penn interviews Neal, Creative Penn, 3-12-18, podcast and transcript) Talking about tips and strategies of high-production, high earning indie authors -- authors earning over six figures, some multi-six figures, some seven figures, and in Neal's case writing several books a year. Sample: "In the US, more people listen to podcasts than use Twitter regularly. Advertising revenue is moving to audio. Publishers report declining ebook sales even as audiobook sales rise."
Writers' Cafe--KBoards (a discussion board for Kindle users and authors). The Writer's Café, a sub-board of KBoards, is a source for information about publishing, with a strong emphasis on indie publishing.
CSI: Baker Street (Quirk Books infographic: Sherlock's Guide to Detection)
The Baker Street Irregulars, the world's first Sherlockian literary society.
Do Mysteries Need a Reboot? (Sandra Parshall, Living on the Page, 4-6-16) "Have traditional whodunnits run out of steam, grown predictable, unable to surprise and entice readers anymore? Fans of traditional murder mysteries—as opposed to thrillers or suspense—still love the genre, but they have complaints. And publishers are cutting back on the number they publish. ...The majority of these books have been published in mass market paperback, and at one point they sold so well that many cozy writers were able to claim “New York Times Bestselling Author” status. But e-books have crushed the mass market format, compacting it to a remnant of its former self." Cozies have become too formulaic and predictable -- and boring? "A notable few authors produce consistently meaty, engrossing mysteries that don’t resort to formulas and stay with readers after the last page is turned. Any writer with talent should be able to do the same. That includes cozy authors. And they don’t have to sacrifice the small town settings and familiar characters their readers enjoy."

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Murder, but gentler: ‘Cozy’ mysteries a pandemic-era balm (Tamara Lush, AP News, 3-7-21) “You can enjoy the perfect cup of tea and pretend you’re sitting in that comfy bookshop with the protagonist, smiling along with the banter as she and friends figure out whodunit. It is escapist perfection.”
5 On: Julie Smith (Kristen Tsetsi, Jane Friedman blog, 2-20-18) Smith is a murder novelist turned book marketer, with a specialty in self-published mystery novels/ebooks. Kindleboards, she says, is "Good for info. The Writer’s Café is a trove of up-to-date digital lore. Some extremely savvy indie authors and marketers share information that would take hours and hours to figure out on your own."
Three Top Reviewers Tell All (Sandra Parshall, Living on the Page, 6-2-15) What can the mystery writer do to get a review from Maureen Corrigan, Dennis Drabelle, and Bethanne Patrick? How do they decide which books to favor?
Mystery Scene blog and articles and magazine.
Cozy Mysteries: Murder Most Fair (Laura DiSilverio, 9-7-12)
PEN Ten with Laura Lippman (Alex Segura interviewing, 3-3-15) Lippman: "With true crime stories, we read for disengagement, looking for the moment that assures us that the horrible thing before us cannot happen to us. We cannot afford true empathy. (Sympathy, yes, but not true empathy.) Crime fiction, good crime fiction, sneaks up on people. Safe in our armchairs or beds, we consider the unthinkable—the violent death of someone we love—and admit to ourselves how unsafe and random the universe is."
How Would You Like Your Detectives Sir? Soft or Hard Boiled? (Prezi)

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What Is a Cozy by Katherine Hansen Clark (a PhD dissertation, 2008) The term “cozy’ helps readers find the material that they most want to read at the moment while saving them from reading material that would be disturbing to them. She also discusses the mystery, generally, and in its niches, including the historical, chick-lit, and woo-woo and their impact on the parameters of the cozy.
23 Mystery Publishers that Accept Direct Submissions (No Agent Required) (Emily Harstone, Authors Publish)
How to Become a Detective
Mystery vs. Suspense Thriller Book Genres (novelist Janet L. Smith, MysteryNet.com)
Film director François Truffaut interviews Alfred Hitchcock (12 hours of interviews with the master of suspense films)
Sleuth Fest (writer-oriented mystery writing conference in Florida, February)
Suzie Quint applies problem-solving with plots to novels in her review of Syd Field's book, The Screenwriter's Problem Solver: How to Recognize, Identify, and Define Screenwriting Problems.
"Twenty rules for writing detective stories" (S.S. Van Dine, American Magazine, 1928--reposted on Gaslight (an Internet discussion list which reviews one story a week from the genres of mystery, adventure and The Weird, written between 1800 and 1919)

Crafting a Crime Fiction Novel and Fifty Ways to Kill a Character (Hallie Ephron, Writer's Digest 4-18-12).
Writing Genre Fiction, PDF, outline of topics in Thomas Milhorn's book Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft

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Author Links for Mystery Authors (Mainely Murders bookstore's links)
The Gumshoe Site (Jiro Kimura's excellent site)
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind: Crime fiction, and more (Sarah Weinman)
Crime Always Pays
Crimespace ("a place for readers and writers of crime fiction to meet")
Criminal Minds
Detectives Beyond Borders (Peter Rozovsky's blog)
Dorothy L (an online discussion group for mystery lovers)
Jen's Book Thoughts
Kill Zone blog (first-page critiques from TKZ)
Maine Crime Writers
New England Crime Bake (mystery conference for writers and readers)
The Rap Sheet
Spinetingler Magazine
The Stiletto Gang (blog in which mystery writers Evelyn David, Marilyn Meredith, Maggie Barbieri, Rachel Brady, Misa Ramirez, Susan McBride and guests bring mystery, humor, and high heels to the world)
Women of Mystery (blog with entries such as It's All in the Point of View: POV and Laura K. Curtis's on Fifty Shades of What? (is it mommy porn?)
Stop! You're Killing Me (The Ned Kelly Awards The Ned Kelly Awards (named for a notorious Australian outlaw of the 19th century) presented by the Australian Crime Writers’ Association (ACWA) promote greater recognition for crime, thriller and mystery writing in Australia. A good reading list.
Wicked Cozy Authors (mysteries with a New England accent)
Phoenix Press: Depression Era Pulp (collectors love pulp fiction from the Depression era especially for its often kitschy covers)[Back to Top]

The differences between mysteries,
suspense novels, and thrillers

At the second Books Alive conference, on the panel on the Mystery Market, novelist Donna Andrews made this distinction: In suspense novels, you know whodunit or is planning to. The mystery is, Can X stop them? With mysteries, you don't know whodunit, and will find out at the end. This sent me looking for more on these distinctions between subgenres. For example there is more action in thrillers than in suspense. You may find these interesting:
The difference between a suspense and a mystery (Suspense Sisters). Scroll down for 16 different responses, including this one: "A mystery is a power fantasy; we identify with the detective. Suspense is a victim fantasy; we identify with someone at the mercy of others."
The Difference Between Mysteries, Suspense and Thrillers (Nathan Bransford's blog, 10-1-08) "Thrillers have action; uspense has danger, but not necessarily action; Mysteries have mysteries, i.e., something you don't know until the end."
Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense: Does the Label Matter? (Stacy Woodson, diy MFA, 3-14-17) "Mystery is about the puzzle. Thriller is about the push and pull between the protagonist and the villain. Suspense is about tension and what may happen. It can be present in any genre."
Planning Complex Stories (Jackson Dickert, What you can learn from an ADHD writer, Reedsy, 4-28-21) "If we're talking about the unknown that happened in the past, that's mystery. The unknown happening in the present is intrigue. And the unknown in the future? That’s suspense.... Suspense is all about the unknown, but you need to have some hints sprinkled in. The reader needs to have an idea about what could happen."

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How To Write Deadly Crime Fiction and other free e-books from Garry Rodgers
Crazy vs. Cozy: Deconstructing the Differences Between Thrillers & Mysteries (Better Novel Project) Cozies are often, not always, based on a formula:Quirky Character(s) + A Non-Graphic Murder + Puzzle to be Solved = Cozy. There is a description of a quaint town, and the characters that inhabit it, one of which is either a small town police chief, or some other type of amateur “detective.” There is a murder, usually, “off-screen,” so we hear of it, or we might even see it, but not morbidly graphic. So, for thrillers, the structure is: Horrific Murder + Crime Weary, Experienced Detective + Threatened Life (or Lives) = Crazy.
Sub-Genre Descriptions (Michael J. Vaughn, Writers Digest, 3-19-08). Excellent breakdown and description of subgenres for thriller/suspense and mystery/crime (as well as romance, etc.)
“The difference between thrillers and mysteries is that there’s a puzzle in the mystery. If you can disentangle it, it will lead you to the answer.” ~agent Jean V. Naggar
“One element to it may be that something bigger’s at stake Ð if (the hero is) not successful, there will be a nuclear war.” ~writer David Baldacci
Mystery vs. Suspense Thriller Book Genres (Janet L. Smith on MysteryNet.com)
Online discussion on Goodreads (including this line: "mysteries make you think, and suspense makes you sweat")
Alfred Hitchcock: The difference between mysteries and suspense (YouTube). "The two things are miles apart. Mystery is an intellectual process, like in a whodunnit. But suspense is essentially an emotional response." You can only get the suspense going by giving them information. With a mystery, you are tempted to look at the last page for the solution to the mystery.

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A question of genre: What is the difference between a horror film and a psychological/suspense thriller? (Justine Smith, House of Mirth and Movies, 4-25-08) "I think the fundamental difference between a thriller and a horror film is the presence (or at least) focus on a monster...not necessarily something supernatural like a vampire, or even Frankenstein, but also human “monsters” like Norman Bates, or John Gray from The Body Snatcher....I’d also argue that horror films, are more focused on discovery and the unknown. Beyond just being a mystery, it invokes unanswerable questions. A thriller, by definition, is less about the unknown and discovery and more focused on “dealing” with some knowledge.
Mystery Books Online on additional mystery categories and subcategories: hard-boiled, soft-boiled, cozy, police procedural, locked room/puzzle, thriller, paranormal/urban fantasy/horror, historical, steampunk, golden age, noir (good may not always triumph), spy/espionage, themed mysteries (mostly cozy, but with cats, dogs, and other hobbies and interests). And there are military, science, medical, environmental, and other thriller subcategories. (Steampunk suspense is apparently a subgenre of historical fantasy set in the Victorian era, urban gothic suspense with an element of science fiction.)
Other subgenres: historicals, culinary, detective, supernatural, caper, women in peril, noir, detective fiction, and classic whodunits.
Fiction may also be grouped as “genre fiction,” “mainstream fiction,” “category fiction,” and "mass market" fiction.
Why Is Crime Fiction So Popular? (Beemgee.com) In the western world, crime fiction – mystery, thrillers, suspense, whodunnits, etc. – makes up somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of all fiction book sales. Why is the crime genre so popular?
Investigating Literature through Mystery Novels (KristenKurzawski's high school paper!) "Capers follow a crime, usually a theft, from concept through execution." And "private eyes" and "police procedural" mysteries differ in whether the detective is private or a law enforcement officer--or an amateur detective.

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Wicked Cozy Authors (a blog featuring several authors with often interesting topics of interest to mystery fans and authors)
What Exactly Is a Cozy Mystery? (Amanda Flower, PW, 5-18-18) "An amateur sleuth, an unsuspecting victim, a quirky supporting cast, and trail of clues and red herrings are the main ingredients of a cozy mystery....The cozy lesson is an average person can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if the protagonist is a knitter, a librarian, or a gardener—that person can solve a murder....I fell in love with the small town stories in which an average person, like me, could solve a crime and bring justice to a family after a murder. The cozy lesson is an average person can make a difference."
Hard-Boiled to Cozy: Types of Mystery Novels (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 12-14-27)
Film noir (Wikipedia). If you're willing to go down the rabbit hole of more definitions, follow the Wikipedia links here and learn that Hollywood's film noir period (early 40s to late 50s) "is associated with a low-key black-and-white visual style that has roots in German Expressionist cinematography. Many of the prototypical stories and much of the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime fiction that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression."
In the ‘Cozy Catastrophe’ Novel, the End of the World Is Not So Bad (Alec Nevala-Lee, NY Times, 1-2-23) Originally published in 1939, “The Hopkins Manuscript,” by the British writer R.C. Sherriff, inaugurated a genre of post-apocalyptic fiction in which a resourceful hero survives unthinkable cataclysm.


"If it's got a dead body in it, it's a mystery."
-- Bruce Cassiday, quoting his neighborhood librarian

“No one has to fail so I can succeed.”
--Lawrence Block
"The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes."
--Agatha Christie
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Horror fiction

Dark Markets Database and market resource for horror writers.
The Horror Tree A calendar of submission opportunities for markets that pay for speculative fiction, listed by deadline, or search market listings by type and payment amount.
Why zombie novels written by indie authors do so well on Kindle (Simon Owens) "The success of self-published ebooks has been well-documented in the press. Self-published authors used to be the laughing stock of the publishing industry; they were viewed as naive, talentless writers who couldn’t break into real publishing. Many of those rejected authors claimed that the game was rigged, that agents and New York publishers didn’t even bother reading the manuscripts of unknown writers before tossing them onto the rejection pile. The industry catered to a cabal governed by cocktail parties and prestigious MBA programs, some believed, and trying to break in based on merit was a waste of the time. At the same time, many midlist authors who did manage to get books published complained that their publishers treated books by non-bestselling authors like a lottery, blasting them out into the ether with the hope that a few of them would stick. They would openly wonder why they had to carry the burden of marketing and promoting the book for only a 10 percent cut of all sales. The stigma of self publishing began to fall away, of course, with the debut of the Amazon Kindle and the vast ebook marketplace that opened up as a result. Suddenly, publishing your work was only a few clicks away..."
7 Tips For Writing Horror Stories (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 11-7-18) 1. All story is character. 4. While maintaining tension, leave room to breathe. Read all 7 and the explanations that go with them.
How Carrie changed Stephen King's life, and began a generation of horror (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 4-4-14) Writers and readers recall the shock of reading the debut novel about a high-school outcast who discovers paranormal powers, and reflect on its huge influence.
On Writing Literary Horror, Cannibal Cults And Vampires With Martin Lastrapes (Joanna Penn) There are some books which stick in your mind, even years later. Inside the Outside is one of those.
How To Be Successful in Writing Horror (Joanna Penn interviews Iain Rob Wright, 2-11-19) Iain Rob Wright shares his tips on writing horror and also becoming a successful full-time indie author. 'Jonathan Maberry, a great horror writer who I love says, "It's not about the monsters, it's about the people who win over the monsters in the end." '
Horror Writers Association (HWA)
Joanna Penn interviews Martin Lastrapes about , author of Inside the Outside (which has won many awards)
A question of genre: What is the difference between a horror film and a psychological/suspense thriller? (Justine Smith, House of Mirth and Movies, 4-25-08)
Danse Macabre by Stephen King. "Here, in ten brilliantly written chapters, King delivers one colorful observation after another about the great stories, books, and films that comprise the horror genre—from Frankenstein and Dracula to The Exorcist, The Twilight Zone, and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers."
Why Frankenstein Still Sells 40,000 Copies a Year (Catherine Baab-Muguira on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-20-22) When stories touch us on such universal fears and on longings so fundamental they virtually define our species, then they can survive beyond their own epoch.
Writing Horror and Making a Living With Your Writing With Michaelbrent Collings (Joanna Penn's interview, 5-25-15) Listen or read the transcript. His three rules: "Bore me and die. Confuse me and lose me. Make me bettere or leave me alone." His website: Written Insomnia.
These 'Paperbacks From Hell' Reflect The Real-Life Angst Of The 1970s (Kelly McEvers, All Things Considered, NPR, 10-26-17) (Kelly McEvers interviews the delightful, hilarious Grady Hendrix, author of Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction As I drove home, this caught my attention when Grady started talking about an explosion that produced a slew of tiny "Nazi leprechans." Hilarious and enlightening. "His new book is an appreciation (sort of?) of horror fiction from the '70s and '80s — things like man-eating frogs, satanic sex cults and, of course, Nazi leprechauns, which, Hendrix tells me, were kind of the start of everything....And I came across The Little People by John Christopher ... and it is quite literally a book about a castle in Ireland being turned into a B&B, and the big problem is Nazi leprechauns in the basement." This is also about how bad book covers can destroy a genre.
From killer clowns to post-apocalyptic monsters, horror films thrill the Penn State community (Sebastien Kraft, Daily Collegian, Penn State, 10-25-18)
The Evolution of Horror in Fiction: a brief guide (Felipe Wasserstein, The Circular, 4-4-17) How horror fiction keeps re imagining and reinventing fear. As our fears change, so does horror fiction. It has the capacity to expand its grip towards other types of fiction across human history.
On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association, edited by Mort Castle
Writers Workshop of Horror, edited by Michael Knost. Tips from the pros on writing horror.
Writing and Publishing Horror: Q&A with Todd Keisling (Kristen Tsetsi on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-7-2020) The horror author shares what scares him, the authors who taught him the most about the genre, crowdfunding, trigger warnings, and more.
Where Nightmares Come from: The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre (Book 1 in the Dream Weaver series) by Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell, and a Who's Who of masters of the craft offering an education in the craft of horror writing. Edited by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson.
The Evolution of Horror in Fiction: a brief guide (Felipe Wasserstein, The Circular, 4-4-17)
From killer clowns to post-apocalyptic monsters, horror films thrill the Penn State community (Sebastien Kraft, Daily Collegian, 10-25-18)
What is horror fiction? on the old Horror Writers Association page (if it's still up).

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Science fiction, fantasy,
and speculative fiction

When journalist-novelist Kathryn Lance interviewed Isaac Asimov for a Scholastic teen magazine she asked him at her editor's behest, "What is the purpose of science fiction?"
He thought a moment, then said, "To accustom us to change."

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
“Science fiction is potentially real; fantasy is not.” – agent Marlene Stringer
Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres by Dan Koboldt, whose blog is informative and often includes posts by various experts. See the posts (by topic) in his fabulous Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy series--including this post about Poisons in SFF
DisCon3 The World Science Fiction Convention
How to Research Your Writing to Ensure Technical Accuracy (Dan Koboldt on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-17-18) See also, especially, Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy, a blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction, pieces that become Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres
Speculative Journalism Blends Fact and Fiction to Get to the Truth (Shi En Kim, The Open Notebook, 9-13-22) Speculative journalism—a phrase that may sound like an oxymoron—uses rigorous research to extrapolate into the unknown or brings carefully selected and clearly demarcated elements of fiction to everyday honest reporting. The goal is to use the hypothetical to reflect something true about current events.

The Ultimate Guide to Modern Writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Dark Roasted Blend)
Noah Smith's sci-fi novel recommendations (Noahpinion, 2-11-21) 30 of his favorite titles and if you've read all of those go to Underrated sci-fi and fantasy books (Noah Smith, Noahpinion, 8-3-22) He recommends 13 titles and there are more in the comments section.
The sci-fi market is shifting, and it’s not just "Doctor Who" (Sean McHenry, Marketplace, 7-21-17) Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O’Leary spoke to writer Tananarive Due, who writes and teaches speculative fiction (the broader term for sci-fi, which includes sub-genres like horror and fantasy). Listen or read transcript.
TROI podcast (Karson Lacy) Interviews with authors, etc., about all things related to fantasy and science fiction.

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28 Publishers that Accept Direct Submissions of Science Fiction or Fantasy Novels ( Emily Harstone, Authors Publish, 3-2022)
44 Magazines & Anthologies Publishing Speculative Fiction (S. Kalekar, AuthorPublish, Feb. 2022) They publish "speculative fiction of every stripe - science fiction, fantasy, horror, and their associated sub-genres. Many of these outlets pay writers. Most, not all, of these are open for submissions now, or will open soon."
Science fiction has been radically reimagined over the last 10 years (Tasha Robinson, Polygon, 10-15-21) In its series “Imagining the Next Future,” Polygon explores the new era of science fiction. "In America in particular, what was once a nerdy subgenre, dominated by pulp writers and amateur scientists and philosophers, has become vibrant and wildly divergent, running the gamut from old-school sprawling space opera to heady alternate-history philosophy to pop adventure-novel bestsellers to a growing wave of Afrofuturism."

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Better Business Through Sci-Fi (Nick Romeo, New Yorker, 7-30-17) A course on writing science fiction gave Ari Popper an idea: 'since businesses often spend money trying to predict how the world will change, and since speculative fiction already traffics in such predictions, perhaps one could be put in service of the other—corporate consulting through sci-fi narratives. Soon, Popper quit his job, moved to a smaller house*, and launched his own firm, SciFutures....

     'One of SciFutures’s more prominent contributors is Ken Liu, a Hugo Award-winning author and the translator of the popular Chinese science-fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem.” Liu told me that he relishes the level of influence that the firm offers. “As a freelancing gig, it’s not much money,” he said; typically, stories pay a few hundred dollars. “But you have the chance to shape and impact the development of a technology that matters to you. At a minimum, you know that your story will be read by an executive, somebody who’s actually able to decide whether to invest money and develop a product.” The audience that gives SciFutures writers the most freedom to imagine negative outcomes is, not surprisingly, the military.'
The New Rude Masters of Fantasy & Science Fiction – and Romance (Cat Rambo, 12-31-19), in response to the rumpus about racism and exclusion that led to the collapse of Romance Writers of America: "...some well-established SF writers don’t want to admit that any part of their prominence may be due to privilege. Writers are in general seething masses of ego, and this is an understandable, human thing. But it is true. Writers of color, women writers, writers with disabilities, and queer writers have all faced barriers that writers more sheltered by privilege have not, and the ones that have made it in have done so because they were too good to be ignored. Knowing that your place came at someone else’s expense may be difficult to acknowledge..."

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Writing Fantasy Lets Me Show the Whole Truth of Disability (Ross Showalter, Electric Lit, 10-1-2020) “In speculative fiction, I can center the disabled experience in a way that feels more real than realism...Paranormal fantasy hit harder—and felt more relevant to my experience—than any realistic portrayal of deafness I found.”
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
A Brief History of the Fantasy Genre (Jeff Shear, on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-27-18) "While fairy tales are ancient, dating back to the Bronze age, fantasy turns out to be a revival movement, rising from the grave of the recent dead."
Graphic presentation of analysis of science fiction & fantasy sales, by subgenre and type of publisher, from presentation at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's 52nd Annual Nebula Conference, based on 2017 book sales from a NPD Pubtrack, NPD Bookscan, and Amazon ebook sales.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Sales Have Doubled Since 2010 (Adam Rowe, Forbes, 6-19-18)

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(Tobias S. Buckell, Science Fiction Author & Futurist) An informal survey of advances of science fiction and fantasy authors.
The Ultimate Guide to Modern Writers of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Dark Roasted Blend) See also SciFi at Dark Roasted Blend (more than 10,000 science fiction and fantasy books and stories rated)
Science Fiction Awards Database (Mark R. Kelly and the Locus Science Fiction Foundation)
Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (University of Kansas) See Science Fiction Websites and Other Resources (for writers), SF resources for fans, and Scholarly resources.
The Digital Reader (Nate Hoffelder's blog
geared to independent digital publishing for authors and readers, about ebooks and ereaders, leaning somewhat toward science fiction )
Geek Syndicate, run by Brit Ian J. Simpson, this syndicate of geeks produces podcasts on the world of specuilative fiction, comics, TV, films, books, and games. Read About Geek Syndicate. H/T to Jeff Shear for alerting me to this site.
LitRPG (Wikipedia, has links to more resources) LitRPG, short for literary role playing game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of computer RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels.
Inside the World of Racist Science Fiction To understand why white supremacists back the president, we have to understand the books that define their worldview.
I Have This Nifty Idea: ...Now What Do I Do with It? by Jack Resnick. Outlines for science fiction and fantasy novels which real authors (new and old) used to sell their books to major publishing companies. By the same author:
Putting It Together: Turning Sow's Ear Drafts Into Silk Purse Stories by Jack Resnick, who takes readers through the various drafts of his own stories, showing questions readers asked who critiqued the drafts
Sub-genre definitions of science fiction/fantasy (among others) (Michael J. Vaughn, Writer's Digest, 3-19-08)

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Locus Online (the magazine and website of the science fiction & fantasy field)
20 Great Infodumps From Science Fiction Novels (Charlie Jane Anders, io9 Gizmodo, 3-19-10)
Steampunk (Wikipedia) a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates retrofuturistic technology and aesthetics inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.
Storypilot (Time travel adventures)
SF Fandom (online science fiction & fantasy communities)
SFF Chronicles (science fiction & fantasy communities)
Sci-Fi Writers Dream Up Gadgets & Contingency Plans for Homeland Security (David Montgomery, WashPost 5-22-09)
Star Trek tie-in novels have a gender problem. (Liz Barr at Squiddishly Dot Net, 10-2-19) Women wrote 60 percent of Trek tie-in novels in the 1980s, but today, that percentage is 12 percent.


Harlan Ellison, the Great Ranter, writer of "speculative fiction"

"I have never written science fiction...What I write is a kind of twisted fantasy."

                ~ Harlan Ellison
• Harlan Ellison's Pay the Writer (3.5 minutes, YouTube)
Harlan Ellison, Uncut (Kurt Andersen's interview with Ellison, PRI Public Radio International, 5-29-09)
Harlan Ellison: A Kind of Twisted Fantasy (12 minutes, The piece of Kurt Anderson's interview in which Ellison insists: Don't call him a science-fiction writer: Harlan Ellison considers himself the heir to Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, and Jorge Luis Borges. As a writer of "speculative fiction," he has turned out hundreds of short stories over the last 50 years. Most ranters get boring; Ellison's rants are as verbally creative as his "speculative fiction."
Remembering Harlan Ellison: What He Meant to Me (Shlomo Schwartzberg, Critics At Large, 7-3-18) 

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Romance novels and novelists

“Love is so short, forgetting so long.”—Pablo Neruda

‘I Just Want Something That’s Gay and Happy’: L.G.B.T.Q. Romance Is Booming (Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times, 3-30-22) Sales of queer romance novels have surged, with books coming from the biggest publishers and prominently displayed at mainstream retailers.
The Best Romance Novels of 2022 (Olivia Waite, NY Times, 12-5-22) The genre has had an exceptional year — one of its best of all time.
An Erotica Pioneer Goes From Hero to Villain for Dozens of Authors (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 10-3-21) In the constantly evolving romance landscape, Blushing Books has long occupied a specific niche: spanking erotica. Now some of its most successful writers just want their books back. Interesting how substantial a part of book sales romance sales are, and that there are enough "spanking" novels to be a sub-genre. Lots of lessons here about what to be wary about in this new world of hybrid publishing--about the many ways a dishonest hybrid publisher can be dishonest (both with authors and with who they sell and ship books to).

      For example: "To keep pumping out new releases, Ms. Wills padded inventory by taking older books and repacking them with new covers, sometimes under a different title and pen name, according to several former employees." She also never copyrighted the many books she issued, which had major legal repurcussions and allowed her to pirate her own authors' books. "Writers who really want to get published are so easy to take advantage of, and there are more and more people out there to take advantage of," said Mary Rasenberger, chief executive of the Authors Guild. Margaret Huth (aka Anya Summers), who launched Blushing Books, has ripped off romance writers in a variety of ways.       

       'The enormous appetite for romance and erotica, a nearly $1.5 billion industry, has stoked a feeding frenzy among publishers for new content. Romance sales exploded in the past 15 years, following the rise of e-books and self-publishing, and the commercial and cultural juggernaut “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which brought hard-core erotica from the fringes into the mainstream....Often romance novels attract writers, mostly women, who have little professional publishing experience and aren’t represented by lawyers or agents who can help them evaluate a contract.
Everything and Less’ Review: Fiction in Prime Time (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal, 9-5-21)

     ‘Amazon has transformed the way we read books—and, according to Mark McGurl, how they’re written."Most literary studies focus their insights on the writers they consider the best, or the most significant artistically. But Amazon, being primarily a retail platform, doesn’t care about the content of books, only about how they sell and to whom. So under its hegemony the books suddenly elevated in stature belong to the traditionally “down-market sub-basement” commercial genres....

      ‘ “In the Age of Amazon, all fiction is genre fiction. Dividing contemporary literature into a vast array of searchable genre categories, each with its own best-seller list, Amazon is the host of a genre system conceived as an engine of infinitely infoliating permutations of objects of narrative desire.” The most popular of those categories are post-apocalyptic fantasy sagas and romance novels, and Mr.McGurl devotes interpretive space to exemplars from each: Hugh Howey’s “Wool” series and E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. These books are also notable for having been originally self-published, and it is through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform that the company has shown its true service-oriented ethos. Here writers can target increasingly niche customer wishes, and Mr.McGurl has a funny chapter on the explosion of fetish lit, like Adult Baby Diaper Lover erotica, “the quintessential Amazonian genre of literature.” ’
Stacey Abrams has written 8 romance novels. Now her fellow authors are raising money for Georgia Democrats. (Alexandra Alter, NY Times 12-2-2020) A group of romance novelists launched “Romancing the Runoff” to mobilize Democratic voters in Georgia. 'They were inspired by Ms. Abrams’s efforts to flip Georgia for Democrats even after she lost her own campaign for governor, a show of optimism that Ms. Milan said typified romance readers’ belief in “happily ever after” endings.'

Nobody Knows Marketing Like Romance Authors: Q&A with Kitty Thomas (Kristen Tsetsi on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-29-22) Insights authors of all types can learn from.

How to Sell More Books Using TikTok (Self-Publishing Formula) Is TikTok just another social media time suck? Jayne Rylon and Lila Dubois, who write erotic romance novels, don’t think so. On this episode, they share where they think TikTok’s value for novelists lies and how authors can benefit from the early days of the platform. The content on BookTok is very different from the goofy entries on TikTok, they explain. The value lies in conversion. With 2,000 views, one book increased its sales five-fold. Lessons learned about conversion rates. (Discussion, hosted by James Blatch, starts at about 13.5 minutes) James Blatch hosts.
Meet the Paranormal Romance Guild authors
Romantic fiction writers creating a more diverse happily ever after (Aamna Mohdin, The Guardian, 12-30-21) A lighthearted romantic comedy by Talia Hibbert follows the escapades of a young black British woman who crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner. Hibbert did not expect readers outside her established fanbase to be interested in the book, but it reached a much bigger audience, thanks in part to large book-loving communities on Instagram, YouTube and, most importantly, TikTok. These communities, known as Booksgram, BookTube, and Booktok, are not just spaces for people to share their passion for whatever they're reading. They also have huge marketing power, driving books such as Hibbert’s up the bestseller charts and reshaping the publishing world. Book-loving communities on social media are helping authors break barriers to become bestsellers.
The Clinch (Katie Mingle, 99%Invisible) What makes a book about love a Romance? After Producer Katie Mingle’s mom wrote a romance novel, Katie set out to understand the romance genre and its classic covers. The happily ever after (or HEA if you wanna sound in-the-know) has always been a distinguishing feature of the genre. Sarah MacLean believes the modern era of romance can be traced back to the early 1970s and a self-described Midwestern housewife named Kathleen Woodiwiss. Woodiwiss looked at the adventure novels her husband was reading and asked herself: where are the ones with leading women, told from a female point of view? An interesting mini-history of changes in romance book covers.
World's oldest romantic novelist, who has worked under 10 different pseudonyms, is still writing racy bodice-rippers aged 105 (Deborah Arthurs, Daily Mail, 4-29-13) In 1956 alone Ida Pollock had eight romances published under five pen names - each around 70,000 words long and all finishing with a happy ending. It took her about six weeks to write a novel.
How much can you make writing romance? (Gina Nicoll, Book Riot, 10-8-21) In a survey, academic Christine Larson collected data from 4,270 romance writers, found through the Romance Writers of America. The median income reported was $5,828 in 2009, which increased to $10,100 in 2014. All income growth came from “‘hybrid’ authors,” or those who did both traditional and self-publishing. The percentage of romance writers who were able to make writing romance their full-time job also grew, rising from 39% in 2009 to 45% in 2014. With self-publishing, the royalties may be much, much higher—but so can potential expenses (including the cost of covers and editing). Another key difference between traditional and self-publishing is the level of gatekeeping. Not just anyone can land a publishing deal and there is both gender bias and color bias in romance publishing.

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Racism Dispute Roils Romance Writers Group (Concepción de León, NY Times, 12-30-19) Eight board members and the former president of the organization have resigned amid outcry over how it handled a member’s criticism of another member’s book. Some of the backlash was from writers and members who felt that the dispute wasn’t handled with enough transparency. See also Letter to board explaining why members are outraged at the board's handling of an issue: "This board and the staff of RWA misused the policies and procedures of this organization to punish a woman of color who has done nothing but stand up for those that RWA has historically kept out and mistreated. The handling of this situation is shameful." Leslie A. Kelly's letter to the board from former board members goes deeper into the weeds about the board's failures and responsibility.
Inside the Spectacular Implosion at the Romance Writers of America (Kelly Faircloth, Jezebel, 1-15-2020) A long and truly interesting and important story about nondiversity in the romance fiction world. "But it was also a turning point, when a critical mass of people began to recognize there were problems with the genre and within the organization that needed to be addressed. First came a push for diverse books, then one for “own voices” books. In other words, it wasn’t enough for white women to add African American characters, or for straight women to write m/m romance for an audience dominated by straight women. The genre needed to actively work to support queer authors and authors of color themselves."
Worse Than a Dumpster Fire (Sarah, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, 8-4-21) "RWA’s membership has demonstrated yet again that it can’t be trusted to administer an award that won’t cause harm. This isn’t surprising but holy damn is it demoralizing to see how little has changed.." RWA plunges further into its nosedive. Many RWA members, fed up with RWA leadership, plan to start a romance novelist chapter in the Authors Guild.
        "When the finalists for the newly-renamed award, the Vivian, were announced this year, one book in the Religious or Spiritual Elements category (which really means evangelical Christian, let’s be real) featured a hero who participated in the genocide against the Lakota at Wounded Knee. So all the changes and the renaming and the rewriting of the structure and the rubric and all the significant work that goes into hosting and managing an award yielded the same result as in prior years: racist, White supremacist narratives are lauded, whether the hero is a Nazi or a murderer of Indigenous Americans....Then the president of RWA released a statement that romance with religious or spiritual elements: requires a redemptive arc as a genre convention. Essentially, the character can’t be redeemed by human means; only through their spiritual/religious awakening can they find redemption for their moral failings and or crimes against humanity....And here I am with my mouthguard in because romance still has a White supremacy problem."
Has RWA Lost Its Way? (Lynn Spencer, All About Romance, 12-27-19) A clear account of how Romance Writers of America imploded -- a story of racism, nondiversity, and strangely nontransparent handling of a complaint one writer made about another. To begin with, a writer named Courtney Milan tweeted about a 1999 novel by Kathryn Lynn Davis that contained what she and many others would describe as fairly egregious stereotyping..."she called the book out as problematic and racist." From there on, a failure to transparently address the problem led to the resignation of several board members, and general disgrace for the organization -- for confining black romance writers to all-black lines, shelved apart from white romance novels, among other egregious practices.
Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels (Lois Beckett, The Guardian, 4-4-19) For decades, the world of romantic fiction has been divided by a heated debate about racism and diversity. Is there any hope of a happy ending? Read this and/or listen to the podcast.

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The Implosion of the RWA (Claire Ryan, 12-27-19) Racism and bigotry in the RWA: a timeline of recent conflicts and revelations.
MY POV on RWA (Nora Roberts, Fall Into the Story, 12-29-19) The famed and bestselling romance novelist joined RWA in 1980 but didn't become aware of its flaws until about 2005 "when the leadership crafted a statement defining romance as one man/one woman.... I would not be a part of this kind of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Jesus, it’s fine to have a character fall in love with a freaking vampire, but not someone of the same sex?" She eventually resigned, on principle.
• “The romance market, which used to be huge in mass market, has pretty much dried up and gone to digital original. [And] it has put pressure on pricing of all ebooks…. Those are consumers who, if they wanted a book, they used to come to us, and now they go elsewhere.” ~Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Schuster, as quoted by Michael Cader, and then by Mike Shatzkin in Temperature Check from two US CEOs at Frankfurt 2017 (Idea Logical Company, 10-18-17)
Romance is publishing’s most lucrative genre. Its biggest community of writers is imploding. (Aja Romano and Constance Grady, Vox, 1-10-20) The influential trade organization Romance Writers of America is tangled in a web of racism accusations, power grabs, and shadow plots. "Tisdale and Davis, who are both white, were upset that Courtland Milan, who is of Chinese descent, had used social media — and particularly Twitter, where she has more than 30,000 followers — to call out Grimshaw and Davis’s alleged racism." A long and twisted story.
25 Things to Look for in a Romance Editor (Cate Hogan, fiction editor and romance writer, July 2017)
Charlotte Dillon's resources for romance writers
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Check out the archive!
How to Write Consent in Romance Novels Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, 10-28-18) The genre has historically offered up plotlines that range from uncomfortable moments of pursuit to nos that imply yes. One author discusses her decision to go about it differently.

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The Changing Face of Romance Novels (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 7-7-18) "Romance publishers say that they want to publish books with more diverse characters and settings, but argue that it’s a challenge in part because the majority of submissions still come from white authors. The genre’s largest organization, the Romance Writers of America, which has around 10,000 members, recently conducted a survey and found that nearly 86 percent of its members are white. The group has also faced growing scrutiny over its Rita Award, which has never gone to an African-American writer in the 36-year history of the prize. Black authors have accounted for less than 1 percent of finalists." But "Brick and mortar stores with limited shelf space for romance sometimes stock love stories that feature African-American characters in the 'urban fiction' or African-American literature sections, limiting their visibility among avid romance fans....the majority of romance novels on the best-seller lists are by and about white, heterosexual people." And yet, "romance fans have swooned over Ms. Hoang’s debut novel, The Kiss Quotient, a multicultural love story centered on an autistic woman who has trouble navigating the nuances of dating and courtship."
Romance Writers of America (RWA) Romance Writers alert! In slow economy, romance writers steam to success. "More than 78 million Americans read at least one romance novel in 2008, according to the Romance Writers of America, up by almost 100 percent since 1998. Meanwhile, total U.S. publisher revenue was essentially flat, up just 1 percent in 2008. Nine out of 10 readers are women."~ Richard Mullins (Tampa Tribune, 8-16-09)
Bad romance (Sarah Jeong, The Verge, 7-16-18) To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm. Some authors believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic. "When Valderrama invited Willink to a private chat group of romance authors, Willink learned practices like chart gaming and newsletter placement selling — and much more — were surprisingly common." The purpose of the Bookclicker chat group "is to allow authors to share marketing strategies and promote each others’ books."..."Screencaps acquired by The Verge show that parts of Bookclicker contain a bustling underground community marketplace of ghostwriting, SEO gamesmanship, and ebook exploits, which some in the industry worry is warping the genre." At stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year. See more on piracy in the romance field under Piracy.

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Bodice-Ripper in New Hands (Jonathan Mahler, Business Section, NY Times, 5-2-14) There were substantive business reasons behind News Corporation’s roughly $415 million purchase of the romance-novel publisher Harlequin Enterprises. Harlequin, owned by the Canadian media company Torstar Corporation, is among the world’s largest publishers of romance novels, consistently one of America’s most popular genres. "Harlequin’s international presence — its books are published in more than 30 different languages — made the company especially attractive. But like the rest of the book publishing industry, Harlequin is dealing with declining revenue and income, a product of the continuing shift toward digital books. The mass-market, grocery-store paperback, long the company’s bread and butter, is rapidly disappearing. Harlequin also missed out on what was perhaps the biggest romance-book phenomenon in modern history, “50 Shades of Grey,” which was originally released by a tiny publisher in Australia before being acquired by Random House’s Vintage Books division."
Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism (Jessica Luther, The Atlantic, 3-18-13) The genre is known for promoting traditional gender roles, but a new generation of writers is challenging these conventions.

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10 Top Book Marketing Takeaways from RWA 2018 (Diana Urban, BookBub, 7-25-18)
7 Ways to Target Readers Using BookBub Ads (Diana Urban, BookBub, 11-2-16) BookBub Ads is an auction-based advertising platform that lets you promote any book, any time at the bottom of BookBub's daily emails. Click here to see a few top posts on running BookBub Ads campaigns.
A changing book business: it all seems to be flowing downhill to Amazon (Mike Shatzkin, quoting Data Guy, Shatzkin Files, 1-22-18). "Almost 90% of Romance book purchases are online now, mostly in ebook form, with the majority of those sales going to self-published titles in the $3-$5 range. Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy titles are not too far behind. In general, the strongest indicator for how fast sales in a particular book genre will transition to online retailers and digital formats is typical reader “voracity” in that genre. A three-book-a-year reader is usually picking up their three books in hardcover in airports or brick-and-mortar bookstores (or receiving them as holiday gifts). But most fifty-book-a-year genre fiction readers are, by now, buying those books online, and most probably as ebooks—which usually means that half or more of them are self-published purchases."
Stability in the book marketplace does not mean commercial publishers continue to maintain their share (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files, 12-12-17) "Kindle is taking market share from all the other ebook platforms (except possibly Apple iBooks, at the moment). Part of that is that Kindle has titles nobody else has, as some self-publishing entities just use the dominant platform and skip the rest. Part of that is that Kindle doesn’t just sell ebooks; it provides subscription access through Kindle Unlimited that in the aggregate logs a lot of eyeball hours. And almost no big publisher commercial content is included in Kindle Unlimited....Indie authors and Kindle Unlimited have made the biggest inroads....genre fiction [especially romance] is precisely the area where indie authors and Kindle Unlimited have made the biggest inroads."
Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion Of Underground Writing (Marisa Bustillos, The Awl, 2-14-12) "Romance literature is underground writing, almost never reviewed or discussed in the newspapers or literary rags, or at a dinner party." A thoughtful piece about a genre that sells far more books than mysteries, science fiction, and serious fiction do. What's that about?
Heaven Help the Christian Writer (Kathryn Lively, Fiction Forum, 1-20-08, with links to material of interest to Christian romance readers and writers)
Buzz Books (PublishersMarketplace) Prepublication excerpts from forthcoming romance titles.
Novel rejected? There’s an e-book gold rush! (Neely Tucker, Washington Post, 5-6-11). "In the winter of 2010, the cheerfully effervescent romance novelist Nyree Belleville suffered the same fate as many a scribe — she was dropped by her publisher. The most any of her 12 spicy romances, penned under the name Bella Andre, had earned was $21,000." She got the rights to her novels back and began self-publishing. "Here’s what her first quarter looked like: 56,008 books sold; income, $116,264....There is no good comparison for what’s happening in the frontier world of self-published e-books, because there has never been anything like it in publishing history."
Six Takeaways from the Authors Guild 2018 Author Income Survey (AG, 1-5-19) "Note that the median 2017 author-related income of $10,050 for self-published romance and romantic suspense writers is almost five times higher than the $1,900 median author-related income for the next highest-earning self-published genre category of mysteries and thrillers. Moreover, the median author-related income for self-published romance and romantic suspense writers was only $50 more in 2017 than in 2013, which may indicate that self-published romance writers as a group have reached a plateau for earnings under current business models."
How I Established My Romance Novel's Subgenres (Barbara James, Reedsy, 10-27-17)
Romance Subgenres (Romance Writers of America)
The Subgenres of Romance (Anne Marble, Writing-World.com)
Historical romance (set before World War ii -- Wikipedia entry)
A Conversation with Nora Roberts (Claire E. White interviews the romance novelist for Writers Write)
Romance Divas
Romance Junkies blog (many entries and links to authors)
The Writer's Bump (Patti Struble's blog with links to genre writers' blogs along right)
The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
Dear Author ( (bloggers/readers/reviewers who love genre fiction, especially as e-books -- contests, giveaways, author interviews, reviews, Top 100 Romances (as selected by Dear Author reviewers)
Writing Romance Fiction for Love and Money by Helene Schellenberg Barnhart
The Power Couple: How to Get Rich Writing Romance – with Lucy Score & Tim Hoot (Mark Dawson, The Self-Publishing Show episode 202, 11-29-19) Lucy and Tim show up at about minute 20. Lucy started her successful career as a side effort while she had a full-time job. Romance novella 1 sold 35 copies, but drew the attention of a publisher, and when they discovered how much difference marketing made Tim took up marketing, and Lucy started writing full time and selling books big time. A good how-to talk (once you get to it!)
Romance Is a Billion-Dollar Literary Industry. So Why Is It Still So Overlooked? (Samantha Leach, Boddice Rippers, Glamour, 12-2-19) In 2016, these novels made up 23% of the overall fiction market, and they consistently outperform all other genres. Yet they're still considered “guilty pleasures."
Romance Novelists Write About Sex and Pleasure. On the Internet That Makes Them Targets for Abuse (Julia Carpenter, Glamour, 6-25-19) “We’re talking about a genre that centers marginalized people in happiness, and happiness is threatening to people,” says Sarah MacLean, a romance novelist and a columnist for the Washington Post. “It’s part of the job,” she says of the harassment. “It shouldn’t be, but it’s women writing books having sexual parity and happiness. And that’s a threat to some not-great people.&rdq
One plot that is not romance. Giving advice to a new romance novelist whose heroine (in a passionless marriage of convenience, her husband away at war) is attracted to a neighbor, Barbara Longley wrote: "You need to know a few things about romance as a genre. First and foremost, the focus of the story must be centered upon the couple and the obstacles and conflict they face before they reach their HEA, happily-ever-after. The most important aspect of romance is the HEA. The guaranteed HEA is what makes a story a "romance" novel. What you've described sounds more like women's fiction with romantic elements. It's also unclear what the actual conflict is in your brief description, and who the heroine's love interest ends up being. If she's married and remains faithful despite an attraction, where's the "story?" What is so urgent and captivating about a woman doing the right thing? If the primary conflict is resisting temptation, and she ends up with her her husband in a relationship devoid of passion, who isn't even in the picture during the actual story ... it's not a romance.~ Barbara Longley, who writes Celtic Fantasy and Contemporary Romance.
Is your novel romantic, steamy, or erotic? Esther Rabbit explains the difference and offers tips and examples, among other articles on genre fiction.
Get to know subgenres. Selling sex has never been so lucrative (Laurie Sue Brockway, NY Post, 8-10-16) An interesting overview of romance novels in an unlikely newspaper. One paragraph: "One way the romance world is organized — so that writers know what they are writing and readers know what they are getting — is by subgenres that clarify time, place, tone and type of story. RWA points to these major sub-genres:

Contemporary Romance (set from 1950 to present)

Historical Romance (set before 1950)

Inspirational Romance (where religion or spirituality is integral)

Paranormal Romance (fantasy worlds, science fiction)

Romantic Suspense (mystery or thriller elements)

Erotic Romance (strong, often explicit, sexual interactions).

They are all kissing books, but in one genre you may kiss a duke or a ghost, and in another, Christian Grey."
Love Stories, Not Romance Novels (Staff-related list, Douglas County Libraries) "One of my biggest pet peeves is when love stories end up in the same lists as romance novels. They are not the same thing. Romance novels focus on the relationship between two (or more) people as they fall in love. Other things can frame the story, but the plot has to hinge on the romantic relationship. They also end either happily-ever-after or at least, happy-for-now. Love stories, though, can focus on the dark side of love, and can end unhappily ever after, if that's what the story calls for. Also, many of these books would still have a plot if the romance is taken out. That keeps it from being a romance. So if you're not into romance novels, but would like to read something about love, here's a list of love stories, where the romantic relationship was not the focus or ended unhappily ever after. Many of the books on this list are classics, and epic stories at that. Several are character studies, and several are ensemble casts."
Apple Now (Randomly?) Labeling Some Romance eBooks as Explicit Content

(Nate Hoffelder) "The mark of the E is utterly random. My most mainstream (definitely *NOT* erotic) books have been tagged as E while some other authors’ works (who readily admit are erotic) have not been tagged."

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Rejection, Romance, and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick (Kindle, the dark side of the professional writing game--everything that can go wrong).
Chick Lit Writers of the World (a special-interest online chapter of Romance Writers of America -- all sub-genres from spicy to inspirational to young adult to paranormal)
Book Stuffing, Bribery and Bullying: The Self-Publishing Problem Plaguing Amazon (Kayleigh Donaldson, Pajiba, 6-11-18) "Book stuffing is the practice of an author adding more content to their e-book file than is usually required, all in an effort to encourage readers using Kindle Unlimited to keep reading and earn them more money. Sometimes, that takes the form of the author adding more than one book or story to the file, adding greater paragraph spaces to make the book seem longer, or listing one book for sale - complete with appropriate cover - then compiling them together as a ‘collection’. Amazon have been trying to rectify this problem for a while, including changing their terms of use for authors who are part of the Kindle Unlimited system, but little has changed, and the authors involved have only gotten more obvious in their desire to scam the system....Amazon are perfectly aware of their market domination, hence the way they pay authors via the Kindle Unlimited scheme. The program pays authors royalties for books borrowed not by the number of borrows but by the number of pages read....A book stuffer can dramatically change how much they earn a month by padding out their latest release with extra material, often going so far as adding 2500+ more pages than the advertising would suggest. According to Forbes, this has led to some authors earning around $100k a month....Another common tactic of book stuffing is miscategorising the novels [in less crowded fields] on Amazon....Essentially, book stuffing is its own large and highly profitable sub-industry in the world of publishing." Amazon doesn't police it because Amazon makes money from it.
Cassandra Dee and Mosaic Book Stuffing (David Gaughran, 6-10-18) A prime example of book stuffing. "Cassandra Dee has taken a number of different approaches to book stuffing, from the regular approach of just shoving in as many books as it takes to hit that max 3000 page payout, to formatting hacks to artificially boost the page count, to a pretty popular approach today which I’ll call mosaic bookstuffing...The content ends at 24% of the book file. But this book is not billed as a Collection or Compilation, and no additional content is indicated" yet the book is stuffed with additional material to up the page count, and (read the comments!) click farms and bots also drum up page reads.

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Historical Romance Club
Did Harlequin Publishing Deceive Their Authors? (Savvy Book Writers, 7-21-12) Three authors filed a class action suit against Harlequin publishing, which belongs to TorStar Corp., a Canadian publishing company. Ann Voss Peterson wrote a book that Harlequin published, and she made 2.4% royalties per e-book copy sold. One of the reasons for this was: 'While most of my books are sold in the US, many are sold under lower royalty rates in other countries. In this particular contract, some foreign rights and – ALL e-book royalties – are figured in a way that artificially reduces net by licensing the book to a “related licensee,” in other words, a company owned by Harlequin itself. Here’s an example: Harlequin has an e-book it lists for $3.99. It sells that to Amazon at a wholesale price of $2.00. The author should make $1.00 for each $3.99 e-book that Amazon sells. But instead of selling directly to Amazon, Harlequin sells the e-book to Company X for 12 cents. So the author only gets 6 cents. Company X than sells the same e-book to Amazon for $2.00, but because they are a sub-licensing company, they don’t have to pay the author anything." (Quoting J.A. Konrath)
Harlequin's foray into vanity publishing of romance novels. Paid subscribers to Publishers Lunch Deluxe got a useful summary of Harlequin's "Harlequin Horizons" self-publishing enterprise, an effort to make money from the romance writers it doesn't publish by selling them vanity publishing services. Sharp rebukes from writers and writers' organizations included an announcement from Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), which, concerned that the new 'self-publishing' venture's "sole purpose appears to be the enrichment of the corporate coffers at the expense of aspiring writers," declared that "NO titles from ANY Harlequin imprint will be counted as qualifying for membership in SFWA." Bestselling novelist Nora Roberts, in one of 799 responses to a story on the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog, wrote: "Vanity press is called vanity for a reason. You’re paying for your ego. That’s fine, dealer’s choice. But it’s a different matter when a big brand publisher uses its name and its resources to sell this as dream fulfillment, advertises it as such while trying to claim it’s not really their brand being used to make money on mss they’ve rejected as not worthy of that brand in the first place."

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Erotic novels

Amazon Is Burying Sexy Books, Sending Erotic Novel Authors to the 'No-Rank Dungeon' (Samantha Cole, Motherboard, 3-29-18) Erotica authors say that removing best seller ranks on Amazon hurts their bottom line.
The Sexiest Erotic Novels of All Time (Esquire, March 2017)
The Indie Authors Guide to Trends in Erotica and Erotic Romance (Ryan Joe, PW, 2-19-16)
18 Erotic Novels to Read Now That You're Over 'Fifty Shades' ( Mehera Bonner and Bianca Rodriguez, Marie Claire, 2-3-2020)
Here's How Patreon Politely Makes It Impossible for Adult Content Creators (Samantha Cole, Motherboard, 11-10-17) The crowdfunding site said there’s nothing to worry about, but at least one adult content creator is already being sent violation notices.
29 Legitimately Good Erotic Novels You Must Read (Kara Warner and Sabrina Rojas Weiss, Cosmopolitan, 2-27-19)
Goodreads' Erotic Book Lists (they show stars, and they're now owned by Amazon, if I'm not mistaken).
Erotic Book Lists (Goodreads)
My dirty little secret: I've been writing erotic novels to fund my PhD (Academics Anonymous, Higher Education Network, The Guardian, 9-2-16) 'Don’t breathe a word, my mentor advised me. They were right – I’ve had some odd reactions from the few colleagues I’ve told.' ‘There’s something ironic about the fact that thousands more people have read these novels than will ever read my thesis or academic articles.’
I Wrote Erotica Before I Ever Had Sex (Jennifer Wright, Narratively, 3.5.18) My detailed fantasy life began with explicit X-Files fan fiction in junior high. It took a long time for real-life sex to catch up.

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Graphic novels

Using Graphic Novels In Education: Hey, Kiddo (Karen Evans, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, 5-2020) Check out the Teaching With Comics discussion and activity guide.

Using graphic novels for education
Using Graphic Novels in Education: Teaching the Holocaust with Comics (Meryl Jaffe, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund,5-25-16)
Adding Fun Home to Your Library or Classroom Collection (Maren Williams CBLDF, 6-23-15)
Using Graphic Novels In Education: Hey, Kiddo (Karen Evans, CBLDF, 2-27-20)
This is What Democracy Looks Like (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) A 32-page comic book created by The Center for Cartoon Studies. And download the free teacher's guide (from the Center for Cartoon Studies), designed to help teachers prepare students to be empowered, informed, and civic-minded.

Not Just Big in Korea: Why Wattpad’s Acquisition Matters for Book Publishing (Jane Friedman, The Hot Sheet, 2-3-21) "Graphic novels, webcomics, and manga are a growing part of the juvenile reading market—and represent a more diverse and global readership. While webcomics have been around for many years, the form received new attention from the book publishing community when Wattpad announced it had been acquired by South Korea’s Naver—a search engine that also owns Webtoon....

    "While authors might not consider comics part of the book trade, the category now represents promising growth for book publishers.... More generally, graphic novels have been increasing in market share over time; they’re now two times the size of the comics/periodicals market... The US comics and graphic novel market is now 50-50 adult and juvenile. McLean said this juvenile market has been built by book publishers and not comics publishers...
      "On the adult side of the market, growth comes from manga...Manga and juvenile titles have been growing, but superhero stories—typically from DC and Marvel, intellectual property owned by corporations—have been declining."
Graphic novels are overlooked by book prizes, but that’s starting to change (Dessa Bayrock, The Conversation, 10-20-2020) After raking in praise and aplomb for featuring a graphic novel on its longlist for the first time, the Scotiabank Giller Prize — like so many other book prizes — just couldn't bring itself to put Clyde Fans on the shortlist.
• Drawing Power (Bob Thompson's long Washington Post story on SPLAT! A Graphic Novel Symposium, or Prose Guy on "how this formerly ghettoized medium became one of the rare publishing categories that's actually expanding")
An Illustrated Reading List of Groundbreaking Mixed-Media Literature Nathan Holic (LitHub, 1-27-2020) on Some of His Favorite Graphic Texts: Cycle of the Werewolf (Stephen King), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg, Bernie Wrightson's novels, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, The Desert Places by Amber Sparks, Robert Kloss, and Matt Kish; Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons; Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, "Found" Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer; Wolf Boy by Evan Kuhlman; Kurt Vonnegut's novels (for his VOICE); A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon; I Have Blinded Myself Writing This by Jess Stoner; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall; House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan; AD: After Death by Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire; Building Stories by Chris Ware; and his own new novel Bright Lights, Medium-Sized City.
An Ever-Growing Demand for Middle Grade Graphic Novels (Brigid Alverson, PW, 9-14-18) Readers can’t get enough of girl-centered stories.
Comics and Graphic Novels (NPR's annotated reading list)
The Best Graphic Novels of 2020 (Ed Park and Hillary Chute, NY Times, 12-9-20) Many of our favorite comics titles for 2020 tackled serious matters head on: racism, police violence, the refugee crisis, colonialism, mental illness.
The 100 Best Graphic Novels of All Time (Reedsy)
The Best Comics of 2019 (Hillary Chute and Ed Park, NY Times, 12-17-10) Graphic Content’s choices for the best of 2019 range from long-fermenting multi-character epics to graphic novels and memoirs for younger readers to a variety of forceful works addressing women’s experiences.
Introducing The Book Review’s New Graphic Novels and Comics Column (Press Run, NY Times, 3-27-18) Hillary Chute and Ed Park have been named comics and graphic novels columnists for The New York Times Book Review. “This column will allow us to treat comics and graphic novels for what they are, some of the most creative and richly rewarding books being published today,’ said Gal Beckerman, an editor at the Book Review. ‘And these two critics, each coming from different directions but both fantastic writers with a deep knowledge about comics, will introduce us to new work and new authors as well as the latest from more established ones, and explore them with the seriousness they deserve.”
Marvel Trade Books: Going Big, Young, and Strong (Rob Salkowitz, PW, 1-24-2020) The comics publisher is looking to publish graphic novels, the largest and fastest-growing segment of comics publishing.
Graphic Novels to Graphic Prime Time: Proposing TV Adaptations of Comic Books (Dana Jennings, Television, NY Times, 2-14-14)
Graphic novels (Goodreads list)
How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library (Heidi MacDonald, Publishers Weekly, 5-3-13)

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Historical novels

First, reading lists; then, organizations and resources; then, thoughtful pieces about various aspects of historical ficiton writing.

"Journalism allows its readers to witness history;
fiction gives its readers an opportunity to live it."~ John Hersey

50 Essential Historical Fiction Books (Abe Books)
The Best Historical Fiction Books of All Time (Pro Writing Aid)
50 of the Best Historical Fiction Books (Nikki VanRy, Book Riot, 1-23-19)
17 Historical Fiction Books That Will Immerse You In A Different Era (Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed, 5-11-2020)
Seven WWII spy memoirs to augment your historical fiction shelf (Crime Reads)

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Tools and Resources (The History Quill, specialists in historical fiction) Includes links to several blogs about historical fiction and other resources.
30 top historical fiction literary agents (The History Quill)
Awards for historical fiction (in the awards section on this site--and a good place to learn of the best historical novels)
A Guide to Writing Historical Fiction (NY Book Editors) For those considering it.

Whole Novel Historical: A Virtual Course for Historical Novelists The Highlights Foundation Whole Novel Workshop offers writers the rare opportunity to have the entire draft (up to 80,000 words) of a novel read by faculty, with detailed written feedback and two private consultations provided. This online program in particular is for writers of Historical Fiction novels.
Historical Writers' Association (for writers of historical fiction and nonfiction, founded by members of the Crime Writers' Association)
Historical Novel Society (the home of historical fiction online). There is an HNS conference  in the U.S. and HNF conferences in UK and Australasia. Local chapters meet in various cities. A NYC-area branch  meets one evening a month at the historical Jefferson Market Library in New York City. Check to see if there are chapters in San Francisco and Seattle, too. (Local chapters: Let me know where potential members can learn of you.)
Historical Writers' Association Helps traditionally published authors connect with peers, find publicity opportunities, etc. See Historia Magazine's Facebook page.
English Historical Fiction Authors See also its Facebook group.
What Editors Are Looking For In Historical Fiction by Jane Johnson, on the blog Writing Historical Novels
Historical Fiction: Peter Ho Davies on the challenges (and opportunities) of mining the past (Literary Hub, 9-7-16)
Tips For Writing Historical Novels (Paul Dowswell, Writing Historical Novels)
HistoricalNovels.info (more than 5,000 novels listed by time and place, with more than 400 reviews)
Reusable cover art. Sarah Johnson's site showing how certain art gets used and reused for covers on historical novels (and Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of Love, hardcover edition). Art directors: your secret is out!
Historical Fiction: Masters of the Past (Sarah L. Johnson, Bookmarks Magazine, 1-20-06, on twenty classic historical novels and their legacy)
Historical fiction (Wikipedia entry, with useful book lists). See also Wikipedia lists for alternate history, historical fantasy , historical novel , historical romance (set before World War II), sword and sandal epics, historical whodunnit
A History of historical fiction (Dr. Matt Philpott). Download PDF copy or click on links on various subtopics. On Novel approaches: from academic history to historical fiction

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Why Are We Living in a Golden Age of Historical Fiction? (Megan O’Grady, NY Times Magazine, 5-7-19) In tumultuous times, novels tend to look forward to a dystopian future, but authors are increasingly writing about the past.
Hilary Mantel: why I became a historical novelist (essay, The Guardian, 6-3-17) ‘Is this story true?’ readers invevitably ask. In the first of her BBC Reith Lectures, the double Man Booker prize-winning author explores the complicated relationship between history, fact and fiction. "Nations are built on wishful versions of their origins: stories in which our forefathers were giants, of one kind or another. This is how we live in the world: romancing. Once the romance was about aristocratic connections and secret status, the fantasy of being part of an elite. Now the romance is about deprivation, dislocation, about the distance covered between there and here: between, let’s say, where my great-grandmother was and where I am today. The facts have less traction, less influence on what we are and what we do, than the self-built fictions." See also Booker winner Hilary Mantel on dealing with history in fiction (The Guardian, 10-16-09)
Why and How I Teach With Historical Fiction (Tarry Lindquist, Scholastic) Why one teacher uses historical fiction in the classroom, tips for choosing good historical fiction, and strategies for helping students differentiate between fact and fiction. See also Why Historical Fiction Is Important for 21st-Century Kids (Ellen Klages, Read Brightly) In skilled hands, the factual history makes the character's story feel real, and being immersed in that story makes history come alive for the reader, sometimes in surprising ways.
Using Historical Fiction to Connect Past and Present (Anna Diamond, The Atlantic, 2-21-17) The novels offer more than a good story—they can also be integral to critical-thinking skills, especially during periods of political turmoil.
Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer’s (& Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, & Myths by Susanne Alleyn
‘Little House’ and the identity of the prairie struggle (Claire Thompson, High Country News, 6-25-18) The gritty reality behind Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writings--an interesting re-review of Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic novel. And then Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award over racism concerns (The Guardian, 6-24-18) American Library Association changes award name after examining ‘expressions of stereotypical attitudes’ in books (people didn't notice them the first time through?)

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‘Little House’ and the identity of the prairie struggle (Claire Thompson, High Country News, 6-25-18) An interesting review of Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic and award-winning novel. Concerns about prejudiced views in the novels brought revised views of her fiction: Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award over racism concerns (The Guardian, 6-24-18) American Library Association changes award name after examining ‘expressions of stereotypical attitudes’ in books. (They didn't see them the first time? Or times changed?)
Writing’s power to deceive (Andrew Elfenbein, The Conversation, 2-15-18) The author of The Gist of Reading writes that a substantial amount of psychology work "has demonstrated how reading stories – both nonfiction and fiction – has a powerful ability to distort readers’ prior knowledge. Some participants read a version of a narrative that foregrounded facts that made it doubtful Washington would become the president; others read a narrative that made his presidency seem likely. Readers who read the doubtful version took longer to verify that he had indeed become president (or to recognize that a sentence denying that he had become president was not true)."
Historical Fiction Online (forum to discuss historical romance, historical mystery, historical fantasy -- by author, by era, by country/continent -- with book reviews by members)
Historical Novel Society (a community for authors, readers, agents, and publishers)
Historical novels booklists (Goodreads)
Elizabeth Chadwick's Reference Library (an excellent personal list of medieval history reference books for historical novel writing, posted on her blog)
Defining the Genre: What are the rules for historical fiction? (Sarah Johnson, Historical Novel Society). See also Defining the genre (Richard Lee). Very specific!
* • Historical fiction, fictional history: stories we tell about the past (Camilla Nelson, Christine de Matos, The Conversation, 6-9-15) Introductory article in a series examining the links, problems and dynamics of writing, recording and recreating history, whether in fiction or nonfiction). Can fiction and history really be kept secret? See special website edition of open-access academic journal Text: Fictional histories and historical fictions: Writing history in the twenty-first century (ed. Camilla Nelson and Christine de Matos, Text website series, No. 28, April 2015) which "attempts to get beyond the well rehearsed and often acrimonious exchanges between writers and historians that have been such a characteristic of the History Wars of the last ten years, with its boundary-riding rhetoric."
Google Ngram viewer . Tracks when and how usage patterns changed in history (based on how often words and word combination appear in books over time) and useful for avoiding anachronistic slang in historical fiction.

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It’s All in the Detail: Using Historical Detail to Create Scenes (Liza Perrat, Writing.ie). Tips: Don't hit reader over the head. If in doubt, leave it out. And more...
Bridging the Gaps: Overcoming the Obstacles of Historical Fiction in Roebuck (Luke Waterston, Writing.ie) "The known, unmovable points – those balls of obligatory yarn – are of course the events already proven to have unfolded in history. Why would a writer not wish to work with them when the period is clearly one in which they are interested enough to have based a book around? Well, largely because they can be immensely inconvenient."
10 Steps to the Past: How to Do World Building Right in Historical Fiction (Rebecca D'Harlingue, Writer's Digest, 9-4-2020) There are many techniques that historical fiction writers employ to build believable worlds that existed in the past and still beckon to modern readers. Here is a peek at 10 techniques used by author Rebecca D'Harlingue and how she used them.
Unlocking the Secrets of Historical Fiction (Robert Lee Brewer, Writer's Digest, 8-20-2020) Bestselling author Wendy Holden shares how her latest story literally fell at her feet, what her best piece of writing advice is, and more!

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The Dead Are Real (Larissa Macfarquhar, The New Yorker, 10-15-12). Fascinating profile of Hilary Mantel (author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies--first of her life, and then of her life as a historical novelist--one trying to imagine real history. "So much of fiction is a matter of trying to force uncertainty and freedom into a process that is in fact entirely determined by choice or events. When she is writing historical fiction, she knows what will happen and can do nothing about it, but she must try to imagine the events as if the outcome were not yet fixed, from the perspective of the characters, who are moving forward in ignorance. This is not just an emotional business of entering the characters’ point of view; it is also a matter of remembering that at every point things could have been different. What she, the author, knows is history, not fate."
See also Mantel Takes Up Betrayal, Beheadings In 'Bodies' (Fresh Air interview, NPR, WHYY, 11-26-12); The unquiet mind of Hilary Mantel (New Statesman, 10-3-12 -- where she talks to Sophie Elmhirst about memory, class, Bring Up the Bodies and the unsettled writer’s life). On Hilary Mantel's second Booker Win and here she is on a podcast: Hilary Mantel on Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (Guardian Books, 12-21-12). She might be appalled to have her entry in the same group as some of the bodice rippers on other sites to which this page links.

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Interviews with (or stories about) novelists and short story writers

plus interesting author profiles and author-editor or author-reader conversations

The Time Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming Got Together To Talk About Thrillers (CrimeReads, 11-2-18) 'In 1958, celebrating Chandler’s 70th birthday, the BBC asked Fleming to “interview” his eminent friend. The result was a rollicking, far-ranging conversation in which the authors discussed the state of the thriller, heroes and villains, the struggle for literary credibility, and how a murder is planned and executed.' Listen to it here (with partial transcripts).
When Barbara Pym Couldn’t Get Published (Thomas Mallon, New Yorker, 5-30-22)During the nineteen-forties, Pym began discovering what Byrne regards as her principal theme, “male incompetence”—something that constantly requires self-sacrificing, usually unmarried, “excellent women.” The English novelist was coming into her prime when publishers decided that she was outdated. But some of her contemporaries knew better.
That Sad Young Man (John C. Mosher, New Yorker, 4-27-1926) All was quiet on the Riviera, and then the Fitzgeralds arrived, Scott and Zelda and Scotty. A profile of F. Scott Fitzgerald as a youngish man. Almost thirty.
If You Don’t Feel “Literary” Enough: Q&A with Nikki Nelson-Hicks (Kristen Tsetsi on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-26-22) "I write about loss and fear and terrible things that gnash and grind bones in the dark. I see both sides of the story. I feel the pain of the victim as well as the monster. I am Janus Sighted and, because of that, I go out of my way to not inflict pain on any living thing. We do not bring more darkness into this world by writing horror. We show it to you. We mirror the monster hiding behind you. And we teach you how to kill it."
The Accidental Interrogation: Pinning Down Nikki Nelson-Hicks Part 1 (Paul Bishop, Huffpost, 10-1-15) Sherlockian chronicler (Sherlock Holmes and the Shrieking Pits), creator of the Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective series, and a distracted writer with an attention deficit muse, Nikki is an acerbic, sarcastic, hair-exploding, dart throwing contrarian - all of which shines through in the maniacal humor and power of her writing. Q: When did you first discover Sherlock Holmes and the legacy of H. P Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos? How have those inspirations influenced your writing? What pushed you to go beyond being a cubical goddess and into the unreliable world of writing? See also Part 2 Beyond Holmes and Lovecraft, who are your other influences and what do you draw from them? What were the challenges involved in writing Sherlock Holmes and the Shrieking Pits? and Part 3: How did you write your way into the Pro Se Productions pulpverse? What would be your dream project? What excites you when you read something new?
Arundhati Roy: Stories ‘Must Not Lose Their Wilderness’ (Siddhartha Deb's interview at PEN America's World Voices Festival, LitHub, 7-10-19) "Sometimes I feel novels are also being domesticated. Too beautiful, too contained, too well crafted. Like products. They must not lose their wilderness. I wanted my novel to be like the wild, untamed city I live in."
A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions (in print edition: "Unreliable Narrator"). (Ian Parker, New Yorker, 2-11-19) Dan Mallory, who writes under the name A. J. Finn, went to No. 1 with his début thriller, “The Woman in the Window.” His life (as what Longreads describes as "a scam artist") contains even stranger twists.
Philip Roth on Mortality: “It’s a Bad Contract, and We All Have to Sign It” (LitHub) John Freeman's 2006 interview with the late, great novelist. "I write the piece from beginning to end,” he says, explaining how he works, “in drafts, enlarging it from within, which means I tend not to work by adding on. I have the story, and what I find I need to develop is stuff within the story that gives it the punch."
Ex-British spy on leading a "double life" as a famous author (Steve Kroft, 60 Minutes, 9-17-17) John le Carré is the pen name of David Cornwell, an ex-spy for Britain’s famed MI6, whose page-turner spy thrillers have made him one of the most successful authors of the past 60 years. Fascinating for the story of his life (including his unsettled childhood and the bent way his father approached life), his intelligent comments about the current political situation in the United States, his gentle wit (he went from working class to middle class to criminal class--he did not want to come across as English upper class), and what he says about the genre and his writing life. Equally interesting, Terry Gross's interview on Fresh Air Novelist John Le Carré Reflects On His Own 'Legacy' Of Spying (9-5-17). If you, like me, caught part of Terry Gross's interview while driving somewhere, and hated missing the rest, you can catch them both online, thank goodness. Wonderful material. And then there's the memoir: The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life, about a far more interesting life than most of us have experienced!
Dearest Edith: The inner and outer voyages of Edith Wharton. (Janet Flanner profile, New Yorker, 2-22-1929) In writing of the sins of society, Mrs. Wharton gave the great public what it wanted and ever since the appearance, in 1905, of “The House of Mirth,” each of her novels has remained a best-seller for the period of its commercial life, a remarkable financial triumph. Her publishers have always found her an enemy of publicity and her standard press photograph shows her in pearls and décolletage, dressed for her public as for a ball.
The Best Daphne du Maurier Books (Stephanie Kelley Q&A with Oxford University's Laura Varnam about Rebecca and four other du Maurier books—from biography and fiction to history and horror—and the way life and fiction intersect in the author's life. “Hitchcock pretends du Maurier wasn’t a great influence on him. But she was. She taught him about suspense.”
Five Questions for Lydia Kang (Deborah Blum, Undark, 2-21-18) The physician and best-selling author talks about her newest book — ‘Quackery,’ on insanely bad medical practices throughout history. “Anything that involves poison or the macabre or murder are things that I really find endlessly interesting.” “Quackery” is a history of so-called cures, which also includes everything from bloodletting to “medicinal” alcohol. Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
5 On: Ian Thomas Healy . Kristen Tsetsi's interview, on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-26-18, of the prolific author and publisher of action, superhero, steampunk, vampire, western fantasy, and mainstream fiction. The 5 On series of interviews on Friedman's blog includes interviews with Elizabeth Marro, Lisa Tener, Jane Smiley, Julie Smith, Josip Novakovich, Craig Lancaster, and others.
The “Terrifying Crisis” of Finding the Second Act to Her Writing Career. An Interview with Novelist Tammy Greenwood (Dan Blank, WeGrowMedia, 3-26-15) Frank talk about the reality of reaching success as a novelist, and having a backup source of income (in her case, teaching writing in San Diego).
Master of the Legal Thriller: A Conversation with Scott Turow. Video of TJ Stiles interviewing Turow at Bay Area Book Festival 2017 (Fora.tv.com, 1 hr 21 min)
Author Colin Winnette on Trapdoors, Texas and Bad Manifestos (Alexandra Kleeman, Playboy, 10-11-16) “So, how to do it? Choose very few details, and choose ones that have trapdoors built into them in order to make the world of the story feel both familiar and unreliable.” H/T: Lit Hub Daily.
Geraldine Brooks: “You might aspire to art but it better start as craft” (Nieman Storyboard interview, 10-9-15) "I think being a journalist instills the great fear in you of the reader not turning past the jump. Understanding that the easiest thing for a reader to do is stop reading is something that my wonderful newspaper editors instilled in me. That is very useful for keeping the narrative flowing and respecting the fact that there are many demands on a reader’s attention, and you’ve got to grab them.... When we talk about 'narrative nonfiction,' I get incandescent when people say something is nonfiction, and you get to the back of the book and find they’ve changed or merged scenes and created dialogue. Then it’s not nonfiction anymore. It sets the bar too high for legitimate nonfiction."
Novelist Larry McMurtry's 'Last Kind Words' (Michael Mechanic, Mother Jones, May/June 2014) The late "Lonesome Dove" author on closeted cowboys, pointless Pulitzers, and his latest Old West novel.
The Henry Ford of Books Todd S. Purdum (Vanity Fair, January 2015) Purdum explores the contradictions of James Patterson, the one-man fiction factory and publishing conglomerate. He's master of the red herring, says Roslyn Reid. See also
---What I Learned from James Patterson (Mark Sullivan, Publishers Weekly, 12-14-12) A coauthor shares some advice he gleaned from working with the global bestseller. "We are in the business of entertainment, not edification or enlightenment,” Patterson told me very early in our working relationship. “We are interested in giving the reader an intelligent thrill ride populated by outsized people we feel for.”
---James Patterson Inc. (Jonathan Mahler, NY Times Magazine, 1-20-10) “To maintain his frenetic pace of production, Patterson now uses co-authors for nearly all of his books. He is part executive producer, part head writer, setting out the vision for each book or series and then ensuring that his writers stay the course."
---How James Patterson Works With His Co-Authors (Karen Woodward) and 7 Tips From James Patterson For Writing Suspenseful Prose (both on Karen Woodward's blog)
--- World’s Best-Selling Author James Patterson On How To Write An Unputdownable Story (Joe Berkowitz, Fast Company, 4-16-14) James Patterson’s books account for one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States. The wildly prolific author talks to Co.Create about how to tell a story that will hook people in.
A Society of One: Zora Neale Hurston, American contrarian. (Claudia Roth Pierpont, New Yorker, 2-9-97) "Hurston was at the height of her powers in 1937, when she first fell seriously out of step with the times. She had written a love story—“Their Eyes Were Watching God”—and become a counter-revolutionary. Against the tide of racial anger, she wrote about sex and talk and work and music and life’s unpoisoned pleasures, suggesting that these things existed even for people of color, even in America; and she was judged superficial." (As editor of Fawcett's Premier paperback line, I was pleased to issue a paperback reprint edition of that novel in the late 1960s.)
Elena Ferrante on the Origins of her Neapolitan Novels (Megan O'Grady, Vogue, 8-19-14) “The most difficult achievement is the capacity to see oneself, to name oneself, to imagine oneself,” says Ferrante. “If in daily life we use ideologies, common sense, religion, even literature itself to disguise our experiences and make them presentable, in fiction it’s possible to sweep away all the veils—in fact, perhaps, it’s a duty.”
Donna Tartt and Michael Pietsch (a Slate Book Review author-editor conversation)
The American Boy (Daniel Mendelsohn, Personal History, New Yorker, 1-7-13) Mary Renault's novels about the ancient Greeks elicited passionate mail from her readers, including Mendelsohn, who discovered through her novels about Greek heroes the gayness they helped him discover in himself.
This Is What It Was Like to Go to James Joyce's Birthday Party And have him chat with you about his favorite novels. (Padraic Colum, New Republic, 5-13-31)
Janet Evanovich’s Unexpected Path to Crime Novels (Marc Myers, WSJ, 6-23-15) The creator of bounty hunter Stephanie Plum had a vivid imagination as a child, leading her to art and then writing
Hanya Yanagihara and Gerry Howard (a Slate Book Review author-editor conversation)
George Saunders: "Tenth of December" (interesting interview by Diane Rehm, about the creative process, with a side discussion of Ayn Rand)
Andrés Neuman: "Talking To Ourselves" (Susan Page, on Diane Rehm show, interviews this leading Latin American writer about his latest work, in which in three voices he tells the story of a mother, a dying father and their 10-year-old son and how they are bound by love and transformed by loss. "It's a story about illness...focused on the very usually omitted character who is the caregiver, the one who gets ill with someone else's illness, that very complicated illness, which is implied in the fact of taking care of the loved one and not always being able to save his or her life."
The Running Novelist: Learning how to go the distance (autobiographical essay by Haruki Murakami, New Yorker, 6-9-08)
How to Survive in a Women's Federal Prison (Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones, Nov.-Dec. 2013) Insights from Piper Kerman, whose year in lockup yielded a bestseller (Orange Is the New Black), a hot Netflix series, and a national soapbox.
Interviews with novelists and fiction writers
Paris Review interviews with fiction writers
Frederik Pohl, Science Fiction Master Who Vaporized Utopias, Dies at 93 (obit, Gerald Jonas, NY Times, 9-3-13)
The unquiet mind of Hilary Mantel (Sophie Elmhirst, New Statesman, 10-3-12) A portrait of the author of the Booker-winning Wolf Hall. She talks to Sophie Elmhirst about memory, class, Bring Up the Bodies and the unsettled writer’s life.
Mantel Takes Up Betrayal, Beheadings In 'Bodies' (Fresh Air, WHYY, 11-26-12) (talking about her novel Bring Up the Bodies, which won a Man Booker prize, and about her endometriosis)
In conversation: Kiran Desai meets Anita Desai (The Guardian, 11-11-11) 'As a child I must have been aware of all these vanished pasts and landscapes'
Sylvia Plath. Two interesting interviews about Sylvia Plath: Olwyn Hughes,Ted Hughes's sister, tells Sam Jordison how misrepresented she feels the story of Sylvia Plath's death has been (and how unfairly maligned Ted Hughes was -- The Guardian, 1-18-13), and Sylvia Plath's friend, Elizabeth Sigmund, tells Sam Jordison her side of the story -about her memories of getting caught up in a family's tragedy (Guardian, 1-18-13)
Q&A with Novelist Jodi Picoult (Jennifer Haupt, One True Thing column, Psychology Today, 9-25-12) “Maybe who we are isn't so much about what we do, but rather what we're capable of when we least expect it.”
Lunch with the FT: Ian McEwan (Caroline Daniel, Financial Times, 8-24-12)
Lunch with the FT: Robert Caro (Sarah Gordon, Financial Times, 1-4-13)
Paul Auster (Big Think, 11-5-09, interviewed by Austin Allen)
John Irving (Big Think). See also earlier interview, 11-4-09
Walter Mosley
Questions and Answers (an interview with Barbara Burkhardt about her biography of William Maxwell, the overdue story of the famous New Yorker editor's illustrious life and works: William Maxwell: A Literary Life
Katie Couric interviews J.K. Rowling (7-18-05)
Joyce Carol Oates speaking at Book Passage) s (FORA.tv video) about her novel The Gravedigger's Daughter, much of which is based on her grandmother, Blanche Morningstar. She speaks of setting as being almost like a character.(51 minutes)
Advice on Writing Dystopian Fiction, from Lauren DeStefano & Moira Young (Maryann Yin, GalleyCat, 2-21-12, interviews the authors of the Chemical Garden trilogy and of the Dustland trilogy.
TheBookShow (listen online to this Australian radio show's many interviews about fiction and other topics)
Finding John Irving (Interviewed by Dave for Powell's Books)
One on One: Insights Into the Writer's Life (Nancy Christie's interviews with various writers)
Writing Strong Women. Interviews with various novelists who create strong women characters (BlogTalkRadio)
Fiction Collaboration (Anita Bartholomew interviews Kathryn Lance and Jack McDevitt)
BOMB (artists in conversation)
The Significance of Place: An Interview with Barbara Henning (Rafael Otto interviews the poet-novelist for Not Enough Night)

Victoria Strauss Stacey O'Neale interviews the YA Fantasy author, who maintains the popular Writer Beware website (www.writerbeware.org).
A Conversation with Mary Higgins Clark (Claire E. White interviews her for Writers Write)
A Conversation with Nora Roberts (Claire E. White interviews the romance novelist for Writers Write)
Paris Review interviews with fiction writers (links to many wonderful interviews)
A Conversation with Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code (BookBrowse)
Videos of well-known authors (Writania.com) (for example, Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice on Writing Short Stories , crime fiction author George Weird on Developing a Voice or Style as a Writer, and author Joyce Carol Oates on how to develop realistic characters, using examples from her novel “The Gravedigger’s Daughter"
Audio archives, Key West Literary Seminar (KWLS recordings of presentations and readings by and conversations between some of the world's most influential writers)

“Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that it doesn’t stifle enough of them.” ~Flannery O’Connor

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Short stories renaissance

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

How novelists are monetizing their short fiction through Patreon (Simon Owens, Medium, 1-6-16) Tim Pratt cut his teeth writing short fiction but few publications publish short fiction and fewer still pay well so he turned to long-form fiction. Then he discovered Patreon, which "allows fans to provide ongoing support for creators who regularly produce new work. There are two forms of “patronage” on Patreon: a fan can either pay a certain amount per month or per artistic creation. The site simply charges the agreed-upon amount to the person’s credit card. Many YouTubers, for instance, configure it so their fans pay a set amount per new video."
Nine Recurring Dark Fiction Markets (Chris Saunders, Authors Publish) Details on The Deadlands, Apex, Three-lobed Burning Eye (3LBE), The Arcanist, The Dark, Vastarien, The New Gothic Review, The Dread Machine, Electric Spec
182 Short Fiction Publishers by S. Kalekar.
5 Paying Literary Magazines to Submit to in September 2021 (S. Kalekar, Authors Publish)
Short Story Magic Tricks Breaking down why great fiction is great.

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A brief survey of the short story (Chris Power, The Guardian) Since 2007 Chris has written a few dozen overviews of the works of individual authors whose work has some significance in the development of the short story form.
How Reading for a Literary Magazine Honed Cara Blue Adams’s Fiction (In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl, LitHub, 3-3-22) Amy Hempel would sometimes say in a workshop “ 'Tell the harder truth.' So don’t just tell the truth, tell the harder truth. By which I think she meant be more honest. Be honest, but then be a little bit more honest. Be a little bit more rigorous, be a little bit more surprising....I also wanted depth and humor and surprise....Even if I was involved in the story on page one and enjoying it on page five, when I got to page nine, I wanted something new to be happening. And that could have to do with plot, it could have to do with how the character was being revealed, it could have to do with all sorts of things, but I wanted to continue to be surprised.”

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Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories (Leslie Kaufman, Books, NY Times, 2-15-13) Story collections, an often underappreciated literary cousin of novels, are experiencing a resurgence, driven by a proliferation of digital options that offer not only new creative opportunities but exposure and revenue as well.
Take risks and tell the truth: how to write a great short story (Donal Ryan, The Guardian, 8-14-21) Drawing on writers from Anton Chekhov to Kit de Waal, Donal Ryan explores the art of writing short fiction. Plus Chris Power on the best books for budding short story writers. "My wife suggested giving Johnsey new life, and I started a rewrite with him as the hero; the story kept growing until I found myself with a draft of my first finished novel, The Thing About December."
Gish Jen Reads Grace Paley's Story “Friends,” 1979 (listen to New Yorker podcast) and discusses it with Deborah Treisman. Sign up for the podcast here
Writing and Selling Short Fiction (Joanna Penn with Matty Dalrymple, Creative Penn, 5-4-2020) Writing short fiction can be useful for licensing and self-publishing income, or using short stories to grow your list and connect with readers. Co-writing tips and why having a contract in place matters.
Editing A Short Story Anthology in Three Easy Steps, Along With Months and Months of Hard Work (Andrew Welsh-Huggins on The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog, 3-7-2020) "The group keeping mystery & crime stories in the public eye since 1996."
Against the Attention Economy: Short Stories Are Not Quick Literary Fixes (Brandon Taylor, LiteraryHub, 12-6-17) In praise of slow reading. And a good reading list for short story lovers.

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Short story renaissance serves readers, not writers (Stephen Proctor, Baltimore Sun, 9-19-99) There is a genuine explosion in short fiction readership, but the market is not the Good Old Days.
Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft by Ryan G. Van Cleave and Todd James Pierce
20 Great Writers on Their Favorite Story Collections (John Freeman, Lit Hub, 6-4-18) Isaac Babel, Krys Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Tobias Wolff, Lucia Berlin, Nikolai Gogol, Jorge Luis Borges, Barry Hannah.
Read 20 Famous Authors’ Very First Published Short Stories (Emily Temple, Lit Hub, 5-29-18)
5 Essential Linked Story Collections That Are Better Than Novels (Baird Harper, LitHub, 9-8-17) Short reviews of Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio; Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried; Sherman Alexie,The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven; Alice Munro, Runaway; and Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son.

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Compression and Expansion in the Short Story (Lee Martin) "We’re wise if we challenge ourselves to think in terms of opposites. That’s one way short story writers bring out the depth of their characters’ experiences even while concentrating on a single narrative thread....In order for a story to have both compression and expansion, it must find a way to let the tensions of the plot and the revelations of characters to come to this point where something closes while also opening up."
Novel and Story (William Luvaas, Glimmer Train) Story is 'a perfectionist, concentrating so intently on accomplishing that “one single effect,” as Poe had it, that it can't waste breath or energy on digression. While Novel holds forth for hours on end like a drunk uncle. Don't get him started on his wild youth, recounted in a dozen different voices.'
Short Stories: The Novelist's Workshop (David Corbett, Writer Unboxed, 6-14-16) Bottom line: Fall in love with your story, not your words.
•  What It Really Takes to Break Through with Your First Book Deal (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-8-18) In many ways, it’s never been harder to get a traditional book deal. At the same time, there have never been more ways to establish a career as an author. Among the nuggets of practical wisdom for fiction writers: "Publishing credits are crucial for short story collections, and not just because they get the attention of publishers but because the process itself tends to put a high level of polish on each piece." "A serious, consistent submissions strategy is key to getting short fiction published." Read all the "takeaways."
Lester Dent's Formula For Writing A 6,000 Word Short Story (Karen Woodward) See also Lester Dent's Short Story Formula (Karen Woodward) and Lester Dent's Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot
How to Write a Short Story That Works (free downloadable eBook by Michael Allen, via Scribd).

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In Praise of the American Short Story (A.O. Scott, NY Times, 4-4-09)
Orbit Short Fiction. Hachette's new program, described by Publishers Weekly as Orbit Selling E-Book Short Stories (PW, 4-19-11)
Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story (video, via Anna Popova, Brain Pickings)
What is a Short Story? (Reedsy) Examples: A classic short narrative, a vignette, an anecdote, an experiment with genre, an exercise in extreme brevity; how to write a short story; how to publish a short story; and where to submit short stories (20 markets).
How To Write Short Stories by Emma Newman (guest post on The Creative Penn)
8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories (Charlie Jane Anders, io9, 3-12-08)
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction (revised) by Damon Knight
Junot Díaz Hates Writing Short Stories (Sam Anderson, NY Times Magazine, 9-27-12)
182 Short Fiction Publishers by S. Kalekar (by category--speculative fiction, children’s, romance, LGBTQ+, feminist, Christian, Western, pulp, historical, mystery, suspense, crime, and literary fiction.
200+ Short Story Ideas (and How to Come Up With Your Own) (Reedsy)

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Flash fiction

Flash fiction (1000 words or less -- aka sudden fiction, short short, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction, prosetry, and short short story -- a helpful Wikipedia entry)
What Is Flash Fiction? Writer's Digest editor Moriah Richard answers the question and links to several other articles about flash fiction.
How to Write Flash Fiction Stories (Sean Glatch, Writers.com, 8-18-2020) "The story must feel finished in under 1,000 words." He gives as an example Mark Twain's story A Telephonic Conversation.
The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction by Dinty W. Moore
The Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction (Nancy Stohlman on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-15-2020) Let go of description, extra words, and clever exposition. What’s left is a tightly crafted nugget of concentrated gold—flash fiction. From Stohlman's "master class" book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction
Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-five of North Carolina's Finest Writers, ed. Marianne Gingher
Flash What? (Jason Gurley, WritingWorld.com)
Flashes of Brilliance (S. Joan Popek's tips on writing effective short fiction)
Flashes On The Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction (Pamelyn Casto, Writing-World.com, on the nature of the genre, mentioning some practitioners from earlier years)

Flash fiction markets (and listening/reading sites)

The Short List Journals that publish prose of 3,000 words or under. Word count and paid $$ markets are about the only details provided.
Brevity (a journal of concise literary nonfiction), of which an anthology will appear soon, as discussed at A Brevity Conversation: on the publication of the Best of Brevity anthology from Rose Metal Press (Kevin Mosby, Zoë Bossiere, and Dinty W. Moore on Essay Daily, 10-19-2020) You can order (or pre-order) the anthology here: The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction, ed. by Zoë Bossiere and Dinty W. Moore.
Flash Fiction Online
Three-Minute Fiction (NPR Weekend's All Things Considered--listeners submit stories on an assigned theme or in an assigned genre/format)
Flash fiction (Wikipedia on -- aka sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction, prosetry, and short short story)
Guernica PEN Flash Series. Subscribe to series here.
WOW (Women on Writing) Flash Fiction Contest
54 Paying Markets for Flash Fiction (Erica Verrillo, Published to Death, Publishing. . . and Other Forms of Insanity, 5-10-18)
Get Paid to Write Flash Fiction: 18 Places That Will Buy Your Super-Short Stories (Kate Sullivan, TCKPublishing.com, Oct. 2018)
Flash Fiction: A List of Resources (Becky Tuch, The Review Review, an old piece)
Top 24 Websites for Flash Fiction (John Matthew Fox, Bookfox). "Micro fiction tends to run under 300 words, while flash fiction is under 1000 words. So micro fiction is even flashier than flash fiction."
Flashes in the Dark (horror shorts)
Flash Fiction Friday (a community writing project, periodically assigning a different genre and/or theme for everyone to write on)
Mxlesia (for women writers)
SmokeLong Quarterly
32 Flash Fiction Markets (Authors Publish)
Untied Shoelaces of the Mind (pays 3 cents a word for up to 1000 words)
Vestal Review ("the longest-running flash fiction magazine in the world")

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Paris Review Interviews: The Art of Fiction

In addition to the interviews, you can see a page of each author's manuscript
Paris Review "Writers at Work" and "The Art of Fiction" interviews (1950s through now -- online and these are wonderful. Click on "view a manuscript page"near top of interview and see a sample from an edited manuscript). Check out also Paris Review's My First Time Video Series (asking world-famous, award-winning authors about their first books). And read Heavyweights and High Spirits (David Kirby, NY Times, 3-4-1990), a review of The Writer's Chapbook for a look back at what the Paris Review was trying to do (and did)--as William Styron put it, "'The Paris Review would strive to give predominant space to the fiction and poetry of both established and new writers, rather than to people who use words like Zeitgeist.''
Margaret Atwood, The Art of Fiction No. 121 (Interviewed by Mary Morris)
James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction No. 78 (interviewed by Jordan Elgrably)
Russell Banks, The Art of Fiction No. 152 (interviewed by Robert Faggen)
Ann Beattie, The Art of Fiction No. 209 (interviewed by Christopher Cox, Fall 2011). "Because I don’t work with an outline, writing a story is like crossing a stream, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock."
Louis Begley (interviewed by James Atlas)
T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Art of Fiction No. 161 (interviewed by Elizabeth E. Adams)
Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 (interviewed by Sam Weller, Paris Review). See also Stephen Andrew Hiltner's essay Fact-checking Ray Bradbury (Paris Review Daily, 6-6-2012).
Anthony Burgess (The Art of Fiction No. 48) interviewed by John Cullinan
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, The Art of Fiction No. 75 (Interviewed by Alfred Mac Adam)
Erskine Caldwell, The Art of Fiction No. 62 (interviewed by Elizabeth Pell Broadwell, Ronald Wesley Hoag)
Italo Calvino (interviewed by William Weaver, Damien Pettigrew)
Truman Capote, The Art of Fiction No. 17 (interviewed by Pati Hill)
John Cheever, The Art of Fiction No. 62 (interviewed by Annette Grant)
Malcolm Cowley, The Art of Fiction No. 70 (interviewed by John McCall)
Don DeLillo, The Art of Fiction No. 135 (interviewed by Adam Begley)
Joan Didion, The Art of Nonfiction No. 1
E. L. Doctorow, The Art of Fiction No. 94 (interviewed by George Plimpton)
Margaret Drabble, The Art of Fiction No. 70 (interviewed by Barbara Milton)
Lawrence Durrell, The Art of Fiction No. 23 (Interviewed by Gene Andrewski & Julian Mitchell)
Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208 (Interviewed by Lisa Halliday)
Ilya Ehrenburg, The Art of Fiction No. 26 (interviewed by Olga Carlisle)
Bret Easton Ellis, The Art of Fiction No. 216 (interviewed by Jon-Jon Goulian)
James Ellroy (interviewed by Nathaniel Rich)
William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12 (interviewed by Jean Stein)
E. M. Forster, The Art of Fiction No. 1 (interviewed by P. N. Furbank & F. J. H. Haskell)
Paula Fox (interviewed by Oliver Broudy)
Jonathan Franzen, The Art of Fiction No. 207 (interviewed by Stephen J. Burn)
William Gass, The Art of Fiction No. 65 (interviewed by Thomas LeClair)
Henry Green, The Art of Fiction No. 22 (interviewed by Terry Southern!)
Graham Greene (interviewed by Simon Raven and Martin Shuttleworth)
Shirley Hazzard (interviewed by J.D. McClatchy)
Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21 (interviewed by George Plimpton). See also Hemingway's Hamburger by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (9-16-13)
Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182 (by John Wray, Summer 2004)
P. D. James, The Art of Fiction No. 141 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy)
Ha Jin, The Art of Fiction No. 202 (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Edward P. Jones, The Art of Fiction No. 222 (interviewed by Hilton Als)
Milan Kundera, The Art of Fiction No. 81 (interviewed by Christian Salmon)
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Art of Fiction No. 221 (interviewed by John Wray)
Jonathan Lethem, The Art of Fiction No. 177 (interviewed by Lori Stein)
Primo Levi, The Art of Fiction No. 140 (Interviewed by Gabriel Motola)
Norman Mailer, The Art of Fiction No. 193 (interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan)
Bernard Malamud (The Art of Fiction No. 52, interviewed by Daniel Stern)
Javier Marias (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Peter Matthiessen, The Art of Fiction No. 157 (interviewed by Howard Norman)
William Maxwell, The Art of Fiction No. 71 (interviewed by John Seabrook)
Mary McCarthy, The Art of Fiction No. 27 (interviewed by Elisabeth Sifton)
Thomas McGuane, The Art of Fiction No. 89 (interviewed by Sinda Gregory, Larry McCaffery)
Lorrie Moore, The Art of Fiction No. 167 (interviewed by Elizabeth Gaffney)
Toni Morrison, The Art of Fiction No. 134 (interviewed by Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Elissa Schappell)
Alice Munro, The Art of Fiction No. 137 (interviewed by Jeanne McCulloch, Mona Simpson). Munro: "“I only seem to get a grasp on what I want to write about with the greatest difficulty. And barely.”
Vladimir Nabokov, The Art of Fiction No. 40 (interviewed by Herbert Gold)
V. S. Naipaul, The Art of Fiction No. 154 (interviewed by Jonathan Rosen, Tarun Tejpal)
Edna O'Brien, The Art of Fiction No. 82 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy)
Patrick O'Brian, The Art of Fiction No. 142 (interviewed by Stephen Becker)
Kenzaburo Oe (interviewed by Sarah Fay)
Grace Paley, The Art of Fiction No. 131 (interviewed by Jonathan Dee, Barbara Jones, Larissa MacFarquhar)
Dorothy Parker, The Art of Fiction No. 13 (interviewed by Marion Capron)
Richard Price, The Art of Fiction No. 144 (interviewed by James Linville)
V. S. Pritchett, The Art of Fiction No. 122 (interviewed by Shusha Guppy, Anthony Weller)
Philip Roth, The Art of Fiction No. 84 (interviewed by Hermione Lee)
Irwin Shaw, The Art of Fiction No. 4 (interviewed by George Plimpton and John Phillips)
Robert Penn Warren, The Art of Fiction No. 18 (interviewed by Eugene Walter and Ralph Ellison)
James Salter (interviewed by Edward Hirsch)
Jorge Semprún (interviewed by Lila Azam Zanganeh)
Georges Simenon, The Art of Fiction No. 9 (interviewed by Carvel Collins)
Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Art of Fiction No. 42 (interviewed by Harold Flender)
Josef Skvorecky, The Art of Fiction No. 112 (interviewed by John Glusman)
Wallace Stegner, The Art of Fiction No. 118 (interviewed by James R. Hepworth)
William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 5 (interviewed by Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton, 1958) plus a second interview 40 years later: William Styron, The Art of Fiction No. 156, plus a Letter to an Editor (1953)
William Trevor, The Art of Fiction No. 108 (interviewed by Mira Stout)
John Updike (interviewed by Charles Thomas Samuels). See also The Man Who Made Off With John Updike’s Trash (Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, 8-28-14)
Mario Vargas Llosa, The Art of Fiction No. 120 (interviewed by Susannah Hunnewell, Ricardo Augusto Setti)
Gore Vidal (interviewed by Gerald Clarke)
Kurt Vonnegut (interviewed by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, and Richard Rhodes)
Elie Wiesel (interviewed by John S. Friedman)
P.G. Wodehouse (interviewed by Gerald Clarke)
Tobias Wolff (interviewed by Jack Livings)
A little extra:

Looking for Hemingway: George Plimpton and the founders of The Paris Review by Gay Talese (Esquire, July 1963, reprinted by Long
“Read, read, read. Read everything  —  trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.” — William Faulkner

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Market data for fiction

Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Rachel Randall, Writer's Digest)
Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 26th edition!)
Writing Links & Links for Writers of Fiction (Internet-Resources.com's excellent links, some of which are to fiction markets)
Ralan.com (Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza). See, for example, Pro markets, Semi-pro markets, and Book markets (mostly genre fiction)
The Mystery Book Consumer in the Digital Age (Sisters in Crime, Bowker, 2010) (H/t for these three items on market data to members of the Authors Guild Roslyn Reid and Sally J. Ling.)
‘Murder, She Read!’ Taking A Deep Dive Into Mystery With Nielsen (Porter Anderson, Thought Catalog, 1-1-15)
k-lytics "ebook marketing intelligence for success." Within 40 main book genres, there are more than 400 sub-markets, and 2400 sub-sub-markets. Much info, insight here on what sells best in ebooks.
What’s the Matter with Fiction Sales? (Jim Milliot & Rachel Deahl, Publishers Weekly, or PW, 10-26-18) There are various theories why sales dropped 16% between 2013 and 2017. The numbers, though not a major worry, raise questions about the books the industry is publishing and what consumers want to read. Research shows that the author is the most important factor in a person’s decision to buy a novel, but on average it takes three books by an author for a reader to become hooked. Publishers seem increasingly reluctant to support authors whose books don’t immediately sell, so what can be done to fix the problem? “Maybe,” mused Pegasus Books deputy publisher Jessica Case, “the itch people have for addictive story telling has been scratched to a large degree by TV series binge watching instead of books in recent years.” Read it all--an interesting report.
The First Half of 2018: Traditional Publishers Stand Strong with Nonfiction and Backlist (Jane Friedman, 7-9-18) "Fiction sales have been flat for several years now, with frontlist fiction down 5 percent due to a lack of big titles. Five years ago, ebooks were at 28 percent market share for traditionally published books; today they are at 20 percent. Why the drop? People are shifting from e-readers to tablets and phones that offer more distractions, and ebook pricing has gone up."

Markets for book-length fiction

"Maybe there is a beast… maybe it's only us." ~ William Golding (Goodreads quote of the day)

"September 14, 1953: On this day, William Golding submitted Strangers from Within to a publisher. The manuscript was rejected, but a month later a young editor picked it up from the reject pile. With some work and a new title—The Lord of the Flies—Golding's novel was published in 1954."

That difficult first novel (Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 3-13-07). There has never been a tougher time to be a debut novelist—only a tiny fraction receive six-figure advances, and most manuscripts end up in the shredder. So, what makes or breaks the first-timers? Kate Kellaway reports and talks to five who made it into print.
What Makes Readers Give an Unknown Author a Chance? (Barbara Linn Probst on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-12-19) Debut novelists have to build awareness interview-by-interview, tweet-by-tweet, hoping that readers will give them a chance. What helps? The book’s cover and title (in other words, their overall visual impression), the book-summary blurb, a recommendation from a trusted source.
What Are Light Novels? How a Niche Format Is Taking over the Publishing World (Cole Salao,TCKs) A light novel is a short Japanese-style novella. A lot of them contain manga illustrations but are still considered prose. Alternative names include ranobe or LN. They contain many of the elements that manga and anime fans love. Slapstick comedy, distinct art style, cute characters, idealized concepts, and over-the-top actions and reactions.Light novels are usually, but not always, shorter than full-length novels.
What Snoop Dogg’s Success Says About the Book Industry (Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris,NY Times, 4-18-21) Will the shifts brought on by the pandemic, favoring online retailers over bookstores and established authors over new ones, change publishing forever? How and where people buy books shifted greatly, as homebound readers shopped online, driving a greater share of sales to Amazon and to big retailers like Target and Walmart. Unlike the serendipitous sense of discovery that comes with browsing a bookstore, people tend to search by author or subject matter when they shop online, limiting the titles they see.
Best Sellers Sell the Best Because They’re Best Sellers (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 9-19-21) Publishing is becoming a winner-take-all game. Nobody dominates it like Madeline McIntosh and Penguin Random House.
26 Literary Fiction Publishers that Accept Direct Submissions – No Agent Required (AuthorsPublish)

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No Clear Readership, No Clear Sales (Jane Friedman, PW, 9-27-19) "The secret to selling a book is understanding its readers and how to deliver on their expectations." "Even you didn’t consciously have a reader in mind while writing your book, you’ll have to research or identify one once it’s on the market. But ideally, your concept of your target reader (or to start, the genre you’re working in—which equals a findable audience) should be clear from the start.... if you’re an author, your voice, approach, and attitude toward the writing are hard to separate from your expectations of the reader and the reader’s expectations of you or the text." A few questions about your readers to consider.
A Successful Author Was Rejected By Her Publisher. Here’s How She Found Another. (Virginia Lloyd on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-16-2020) When big publishers rejected a book due to marketing concerns, one author forewent an advance to work with an indie that saw potential. “The fact that it was a struggle to get An Unusual Boy published is actually quite apt. It’s almost a grand metaphor for what it’s like parenting a neuro-atypical child—families like Jackson’s are living the road less travelled every single day. It’s inspiring and challenging and vulnerable and wonderous all at once.”
Anna Schmidt: From Romance Novelist to Literary Novelist (Kristen Tsetsi interviews Anna Schmidt on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-9-19) In this Q&A, Anna Schmidt discusses how she became a romance novelist, the nearly accidental way she acquired her current literary agent, her journey from successful romance novelist to self-published literary novelist, and more.
Booksellers Navigate New Trends in Middle Grade (Alex Green, PW, 9-14-18) 'Middle grade books are the reliable workhorse of children’s publishing, and today’s eager readers are driving a boom reminiscent of the rise of the Harry Potter series a generation ago. While publishers devote their attention to bringing new middle grade titles to market, the responsibility for putting their books into the hands of kids largely falls to librarians, teachers, and booksellers....Much has changed about middle grade publishing since the debut of Harry Potter, but the core difficulty remains the same, according to Neville. “The biggest challenge is matching the kid to the age-appropriate title,” she says.' The book cover is important for doing so, especially for the ever-important series.
Publishing a Novel, as Explained to Aliens (Michael Bourne, The Millions, 9-14-17) If you’ve ever wondered how a novel gets made, from the first glimmerings in the author’s imagination to what readers say about it in their book clubs, Clayton Childress’s Under the Cover is the book for you. (Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel) "On the one hand, Childress has given us a deeply reported insider’s look at how the sausage gets made in contemporary publishing. On the other hand, he has built such high walls of academic verbiage and doctrinal framing around his work that only a few hardy souls outside his area of specialty will ever succeed in climbing them." "amid all the jargon, Childress nails the great secret of publishing, which is that it is a business fueled by special brand of infectious enthusiasm."
The Art of the Pitch (on another page of Writers and Editors)
Top Ten Publishing Trends Every Author Needs to Know in 2018 (Ricci, Written Word, 1-8-18) How publishing trends are likely to affect indie fiction authors: They are likely to grow ebook share, marketing will become more expensive (read how), email marketing will be tested (there is reader fatigue, and people are unsubscribing), and so on.

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Escape the Slush Pile: A Self-Editing Checklist for Short Story Writers (Brandon Taylor, Authors Guild, Nov. 2017) A list of common problems he sees in stories from “the slush pile” (an unkind industry term for unsolicited submissions), that prevent promising stories from getting past the form rejection.
Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year (Kim Liao , Literary Hub, 6-28-16) "In the book Art & Fear, authors David Bales and Ted Orland describe a ceramics class in which half of the students were asked to focus only on producing a high quantity of work while the other half was tasked with producing work of high quality. For a grade at the end of the term, the “quantity” group’s pottery would be weighed, and fifty pounds of pots would automatically get an A, whereas the “quality” group only needed to turn in one—albeit perfect—piece. Surprisingly, the works of highest quality came from the group being graded on quantity, because they had continually practiced, churned out tons of work, and learned from their mistakes. The other half of the class spent most of the semester paralyzed by theorizing about perfection, which sounded disconcertingly familiar to me—like all my cases of writer’s block."
The Atlantic Monthly Cuts Back on Fiction (Edward Wyatt, NY Times, 4-6-05) To devote more space to "long-form narrative reporting," The Atlantic cut back on its fiction, "part of a multiyear trend of general-interest magazines publishing fewer works of fiction." But it will compensate in all-fiction issues.
When to Pull the Plug on an Acceptance (Nathaniel Tower, Juggling Writer, 1-10-16)

"...the literary scene is a kind of Medusa’s raft, small and sinking, and one’s instinct when a newcomer tries to clamber aboard is to step on his fingers. "~John Updike, quoted by Isaac Asimov

Markets for short stories

See also Flash Fiction

Agni Online (poetry, short fiction, and essays--an extension of the print magazine)  • The Antioch Review (fiction, poetry, and nonfiction essays)  • The Atlantic  Barrelhouse  Black Warrior Review  Camera Obscura  Crazy Horse (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry)

Duotrope (for short fiction, poetry, and novels/collections)  • The First Line  Flash Fiction Online The Georgia Review  Glimmer Train   Harper's Magazine  McSweeney's  The New YorkerOne Story The Paris Review   Ploughshares •  Slice Story Magazine The Sun Tinhouse Vestal Review (This is a FAR from complete set of links to short story markets, or info about them)


Lessons learned from a year-and-a-half of submitting short stories (Caleb Stephens, The Writing Cooperative, 12-27-17)
Proper manuscript format (Shunn)
The Short List (DL Shirey) Journals that publish prose of 3,000 words or under. Word count and paid $$ markets are about the only details provided.

32 Magazines That Accept Longer Fiction (S. Kalekar, Authors Publish, 11-22) Many literary magazines accept stories of up to 5,000 words, or shorter; this list has magazines/outlets that take longer fiction, of up to 6,000 words or more. Many also accept other genres, like nonfiction and poetry. Some pay writers. Not all of them are open for submissions now, but many are.
A Short Course in Finding the Right Publication for Short Fiction (DL Shirey, Authors Publish)
The Rankings (Literary Markets Ranked by Award Anthologies): Short Stories. (Marc Watkins, 5-1-10) In this case, ranks for appearances in Best American Short Stories (2000-2010) put The New Yorker at the top, followed by Ploughshares, Tin House, Atlantic Monthly, Zoetrope, Harper's Magazine, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, Conjunctions, One Story, New England Review, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Glimmer Train, Five Points, The Antioch Review, Esquire, Granta, Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, Missouri Review, The Sun, Agni, The Georgia Review, The Yale Review, Epoch, Oxford American, The Iowa Review, StoryQuarterly, American Short Fiction, Alaska Quarterly Review -- and so on down the page!

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How to Choose the Best Market for Your Short Story (Mihaela Nicolescu, Re:Fiction, 3-21-17) See other helpful articles on Re:Fiction ("Helping fiction writers thrive").
Escape the Slush Pile: A Self-Editing Checklist for Short Story Writers (Brandon Taylor, Authors Guild, Nov. 2017) A list of common problems he sees in stories from “the slush pile” (an unkind industry term for unsolicited submissions), that prevent promising stories from getting past the form rejection.
Duotrope (a subscription-based service ($50) for writers and artists that offers an extensive, searchable database of current fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art markets, with a robust search function). See Nathaniel Tower's 3-part series on Juggling Writer: Is a Duotrope Subscription Worth the Cost? (Part 1: The Submissions Tracker, then Part 2: Market Listings, then Part 3: Response Statistics. Very enterprising!
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, 40th edition, ed. Amy Jones.
24 of the Best Journals Accepting Short Story Submissions (Sean Glatch, Writers.com, 8-11-2020)
46 Literary Magazines To Submit To (Let's Write a Short Story)

325 Paying Markets for Short Stories, Poetry, Nonfiction (1-5-16) Chart-form information.
8 Mystery, Suspense, and Crime Fiction Markets Open Now (Authors Publish, 2021) Subscribe free to Authors Publish (March 2021)
Where to Submit Short Stories: 23 Magazines and Websites That Want Your Work (Kelly Gurnett, The Write Life, 7-13-16)
Get Inside the Top 30 Short Story Markets (Maria Witte, Writer's Digest, 3-11-08)
24 Short Story Publishers that Pay $500+ Per Story (Freedom With Writing)
where to submit short stories (Reedsy's links to 20 markets).
Glimmer Train (a two-sister-run literary journal specializing in short stories). See their writing guidelines and succinct explanation of reading fees being one of the ways literary journals can afford to pay published writers: Contest vs. Standard?.

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Scent of a Woman’s Ink: Are women writers really inferior? (Francine Prose, Harper's, June 1998) Some of us can’t help noting how comparatively rarely stories by women seem to appear in the few major magazines that publish fiction, how rarely fiction by women is reviewed in serious literary journals, and how rarely work by women dominates short lists and year-end ten-best lists. This was in 1998. Have things changed?
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts (archives) Explore this site for material from and about women writers.
Short Fiction Factor
Short Fiction Markets (AbsoluteWrite.com)
Literary Magazines (TheWritersSite)
The Market List (for genre fiction writers)
Non-english Markets for Speculative Short Fiction (Douglas Smith, Writing the Fantastic)
Orbit Short Fiction. Hachette's new program, described by Publishers Weekly as Orbit Selling E-Book Short Stories (PW, 4-19-11)
Short story markets (JBWB, Jacqui Bennet Writers Bureau, UK
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Rachel Randall, Writer's Digest, 2014)
The Rankings (Literary Markets Ranked by Award Anthologies) In this case, ranks for appearances in Best American Mystery Stories Anthology from 2009-2010. At the top: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Blue Religion, Boston Noir, Las Vegas Noir, The Prosecution rests, and so on....
The Review Review's excellent magazine links and search engine
Top 50 Literary Magazines (Every Writers Resource)

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Serialized fiction

(which is different from Writing a fiction series)

This Washington weekly is publishing a serialized novel (and making money from it) (Kristen Hare, Poynter, 9-25-18) The Inlander, a 25-year-old free weekly in Spokane, Washington, asked novelist Samuel Ligon to write a serial novel for the weekly--writing it AS it is being published, as Charles Dickens once did, paying Ligon $10,000 for the series, and publishing it as an ebook when it's done: Miller Cane: A True and Exact History. See also Rare Book Mythbusters #1: The reason that Charles Dickens’s books are so long is because he was paid by the word. (FineBooks & Collections) "Contrary to popular belief, Dickens was not paid by the word for his books. He was, rather, paid per installment. All but five of Dickens’ novels were originally published in twenty 32-page installments in nineteen issues (the last a double installment) that sold for one shilling each, though some, i.e. Oliver Twist, were issued in ten installments."
Serialized Fiction: How Authors Are Using The Format (Video of Authors Guild event) Serial publication was once fairly common, with novels such as Madame Bovary and Uncle Tom’s Cabin first appearing one chapter at a time in periodicals. Today, tablets and digital subscriptions have helped revive the format. Representatives from Kindle Vella and Substack along with authors who have succeeded at serialized fiction discuss the process, platforms, and best practices for publishing episodic fiction or a complete serialized novel.
What Are Light Novels? How a Niche Format Is Taking over the Publishing World (Cole Salao,TCKs) A light novel is a short Japanese-style novella. A lot of them contain manga illustrations but are still considered prose. Alternative names include ranobe or LN. They contain many of the elements that manga and anime fans love. Slapstick comedy, distinct art style, cute characters, idealized concepts, and over-the-top actions and reactions.Light novels are usually, but not always, shorter than full-length novels. Being so manga-adjacent, some light novels even begin as serials in literary magazines before being compiled into books—similar to how manga series often start.
The Serial Novel: A Brief History (Books on the Wall) Infographics and timeline, with thirty examples.

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Is serialized fiction making a comeback? (Simon Owens' Media Newsletter, 9-5-21) And can it succeed on Substack? "It’s been at least a half century since the format last thrived....The rise of DVDs — and later streaming services like Netflix — made it easy for newer audiences to go back and binge their way through earlier seasons, thereby allowing for long narrative arcs that stretched over an entire season or series. Now, the vast majority of scripted series are serialized as a result.
Serialized Books Are a Burgeoning Business at Substack (John Maher, PW, 8-19-21) "The subscription e-newsletter platform Substack has already made its mark on the media business, but will it do the same for book publishing? Authors including Elle Griffin, John McWhorter, Maggie Stiefvater, and Matt Taibbi use the service to serialize new books or publish short stories exclusive to their newsletter audiences, but to date, the platform is still only dipping its toes into the book business."
The Joys (and Perils) of Serial Novel Writing (Jane Friedman, 12-20-19) "Writing a novel serially for release in real-time is a process that, like trying to outrun that truck on the highway, can be both exhilarating and exhausting. You experience the immediate delight of moving a story forward and receiving feedback from readers as the story unfolds. But it also means ongoing pressure that comes when you don’t always see the next act unfolding."
Serial Fiction: How It’s Changing Publishing (Jane Friedman, Writer Unboxed, 2-25-14) An early look at a current and recurrent trend.
What the “Serial” Podcast Teaches Us About Writing Novels (Michael Nye, The Missouri Review, TMR, 11-19-14)
Where to Read Serial Fiction Online (Alana Joli Abbott, Den of Geek, 8-14-20) "We're in the middle of an online serial fiction renaissance.While the science fiction and fantasy genres have the lead as far as the number of individual serials available for purchase, the serial format has always included realistic fiction and intrigue, as well as expanding into erotic novels." From Serial Box to Wattpad, links to the best places to find it...
Serialized Fiction Websites (Eliana G)
Should You Serialize a Novel on Kindle? (Roz Morris on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-6-12). "...my biggest problem was tempting readers without making the novel a throwaway price. Interesting report on reader response, on marketing through social media, on using Amazon to best advantage, and what didn't go so well. Many comments. See also Can you split your novel into four equal parts? Serialising my novel… what to do when the show is over (On Nail Your Novel, 2012) "Chopping it into parts is a rigorous workout for your novel’s structure – especially if you didn’t originally write it with serialising in mind."
Your Guide to Kindle Vella: Amazon’s Intro to Serialized Fiction (Kaelyn Barron, TCK Publishing)
Bring back the serialized novel (Hillary Kelly, Opinion, Washington Post, 4-24-15) “Since the loss of compelling plot is one of the things that readers most often complain of in the modern novel,” the critic Adam Kirsch says, “it might be a salutary discipline for novelists to have to go back to Dickens, or even James, to learn how it’s done.”
The Joys (and Perils) of Serial Novel Writing (Will Willingham on Jane Friedman's blog,12-30-19) Like trying to outrun a semi bearing down in your rear-view mirror, writing serially for release in real-time can be both exhilarating and exhausting. (And productive, judging by comments on Amazon.)
The Hack’s Guide to Writing Serial Fiction (Bill Ferris, Writer Unboxed, 5-19-18)
Serial Fiction, Part 1. (Amber Paranick, Headlines & Heroes, Library of Congress blog, 10-13-21)

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Serialized Fiction Websites (Eliana G., Medium) Sites rated: Royal Road, Webnovel, Tapas, Moonquill, Wattpad, Medium, Radish, Dreame. "BUT, and this is always the big but* of course, just posting your stories on the sites probably won’t get you followers unless you interact with readers in some way, or unless you’re lucky to get featured and promoted in their front pages. Getting your novel discovered is always going to be a matter of luck and work on your part."
Why I’m walking away from serialized fiction… (M.L. Rhodes, 7-14-20) " I’ve known several writers who’ve built amazing readerships by posting their novels on their blogs, a chapter at a time, as they write them, and then pulling them down when the books are complete and selling them to a publisher (often a small press, but not always). Some authors have earned amazing deals from big publishers this way. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, originally put chapters of that book on his blog as he wrote it. His readers gave him lots of feedback, which he took to heart and used to polish the piece, and eventually it attracted the attention of Crown Publishing, who contracted the book. And the rest, as they say, is history, including a sweet movie deal where Matt Damon played the title character."
Best Writing Websites for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Bloggers ( Tom Corson-Knowles, TCK Publishing) Included here because of his excellent brief explanations of what each site specializes in.

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'Based on a true story'

Fictionalizing true stories and people

“Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth.”
~Vladimir Nabokov
See also Is it worth buying 'life rights' for your own story?


Roman à clef, as Wikipedia defines it: French for novel with a key, is a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the "key" is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction.

Who Gave You the Right to Tell That Story? (Lila Shapiro, Vulture, 10-30-19) Ten authors on the most divisive question in fiction, and the times they wrote outside their own identities. Jess Row: "I do think there’s a relationship between longing to be black, and the decision, as a white writer, to write outside one’s own identity."
John Updike, His Stories, and Me (Molly Fisk, Harper's Bazaar, 10-25-21) When the famed novelist wrote a short story about her father—using many aspects lifted directly from real life alongside one that was decidedly not—poet Molly Fisk was forced to confront the secret truths that lie in fiction. "Writers write what they have to, reap the consequences, and they alone know what they can bear."

‘Based on a true story’: the fine line between fact and fiction (Geoff Dyer and others, The Guardian, 12-6-15) From Kapuscinski to Knausgaard, from Mantel to Macfarlane, more and more writers are challenging the border between fiction and nonfiction. Geoff Dyer – longtime master of the space between, in books such as But Beautiful and Out of Sheer Rage – argues that there is no single path to ‘truth’ while, below, writers on both sides of the divide share their thoughts… Excellent!
Transforming Coal Into Diamonds: Telling Painful True Stories Through Fiction (Jennifer Browdy on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-21-22) Shifting from memoir to fiction allows painful memories to be expressed, while sharing the hard-won wisdom we’ve gained through experience. "Go ahead and write the true story down, fair and square. But don’t stop there. Take the true story as your rough draft and keep going, giving yourself permission to tell the truth…in fiction."
Based on a True Story: 4 Advantages to Fictionalizing the Truth (Joan Jackson, Writer's Digest, 12-11-17) In the novel Just In Time: Based on a True Story, Jackson fictionalized fictionalized the true story of a day-to-day rollercoaster of life with a schizophrenic, her brother. She explains why, usefully for others.
History vs. Hollywood About films made from true stories and how impossible they are to make even nearly true, with insights into just about everything I've watched during the pandemic. Images of the "real" person's face next to the "reel" person's face, and other interesting comparisons.
Why Genre Matters (Dinah Lenney, Judith Kitchen, Sven Birkerts, Scott Nadelson, and David Biespiel, Los Angeles Review of Books, 8-23-13)
The Legal Consequences of Using Real People in Fiction: When Fiction & Reality Collide (Lloyd J. Jassin, Ask a Lawayer Series, CopyLaw.com). A few techniques that can minimize the chance of getting sued for libel in fiction. This article ends with the names of several legal cases on the issue.
How to Use Real People in Your Writing Without Ending Up in Court (Helen Sedwick) "Writers face three big risks when using real people in their writing: defamation, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of the right of publicity. Yet every fiction writer bases characters on real people. Memoirists and nonfiction writers identify people by name. How can writers use real people in their work without risking a lawsuit?" A thorough article, by the author of Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook.
How to Fictionalize Your Life (Guillaume Morissette, Fold, Morissette's guide to turning your experiences into a novel.
Why Some Writers Prefer Fictional, or Disguised Real Settings, and Others Don’t (International Association of Professional Writers & Editors, 9-11-17)
You’ve Been Fictionalized! (Michelle Huneven, Paris Review, 7-28-14) "In real life, T. C. called me La Huneven, and here he called his heroine, Ruth Dershowitz, La Dershowitz. Ruth was a talentless writer who aspired to literary fiction while writing restaurant reviews and articles for Cosmo....This was my first experience of being fictionalized. I still recall the yellow-white flash of queasiness, the mortification: a sense of powerlessness and an utter lack of recourse. "
My Novel is Based on a True Story. Can I Be Sued? (various articles by Angela Hoy, on Writers Weekly). For example, Don’t Invite Lawsuits by Real People Featured in Your Book! (Hint: You Can Still Be Sued Even If You Don’t Name Them!) (Angela Joy, Angela's Desk, WritersWeekly.com)

The five scariest words in cinema: “Based on a true story.” (Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 12-28-07) What are the ethics of portraying actual lives and historical events on screen? "Accuracy is the great bugaboo of biopics and historical dramas, whose standards of success lie in how well they tell a story, not how closely they adhere to the facts.

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By buying 'life rights' do you own/protect your own story?

See also 'Based on a true story'


Do you own the rights to your life story? (George Thomas Jr., Avvo Stories, 11-21-16) Famous or not, exactly how much of your life story is within your control? You may think you solely control the right to publicity to your own life—the right to control and profit from your name, likeness, image or persona—but it’s not quite that simple. Barring libel or invasion of privacy, you have no recourse if you disagree with how you are depicted on screen or in a book. How do you think the phrase “unauthorized biography” originated? Public officials and public figures have the fewest privacy rights. Living private citizens have the greatest privacy rights (dead, it's another matter).
Whose Story Is It, Anyway? Obtaining a Subject's Life-Story Rights (Tom Isler, Documentary Magazine, 3-24-08) More and more, documentary filmmakers are obtaining life-story rights from their subjects so that they will hold all of the cards when producers come calling. "In typical life-story rights agreements, subjects grant producers permission to fictionalize certain elements of their stories. They also agree to consult with producers, furnish them with materials that could be helpful in the writing process, and help promote the film. In return, subjects receive a payment when the deal is signed-anywhere from $1 to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the situation--with more promised if the project goes into production, typically a percentage point or two of the film's total budget."

Who Owns Amanda Knox? (Amanda Knox, The Atlantic, 7-29-21) "Fourteen years ago I was wrongfully convicted of murdering my roommate. Ever since, the world has believed it can tell me who I really am." See also her memoir, Waiting to Be Heard
How true-life films like “Spotlight” avoid legal trouble

Purchasing Life Story Rights (Mark Litwak, Entertainment Law) If the subject of the life story is deceased, much of the rationale for buying these rights disappears, since defamation and invasion of privacy actions protect personal rights that do not descend to the estate. Public officials and figures have opened more of their lives to public scrutiny, and consequently more of their lives can be portrayed without invading their privacy. Moreover, public officials and figures must meet a much higher burden of proof in order to establish defamation or invasion of privacy. They must prove that a defamer intentionally spread a falsehood or acted with reckless disregard of the truth.
‘Hustlers’: When Does a Film Based on True Events Need Its Subject’s Life Rights? (Chris O'Falt, IndieWire, 9-25-19) The main issue here is the concept of “life rights,” which Hollywood studios commonly acquire prior to making any form of biopic. “The general rule, nationwide, is that the first amendment is going to control for narrative fiction,” said attorney John L. Geiger, who has written countless life Rights agreements for his film and TV clients. “The concept of life rights is really something of a misnomer, because no one owns the facts that make up the narrative of their life.” A writer is free to use any publicly known facts about an event or person.
Life story rights: What’s possible and what’s not (Stephen Rodner, AP, Hollywood Reporter, 1-24-08) While permissions from subjects can go a long way in clearing the way for life story rights, they don't cover representations of other persons or stop rival productions. The law is clear, and has been for many years, that non-commercial speech (and a biographical film constitutes non-commercial speech) has First Amendment protection and that releases are not necessary to depict public figures. The only causes of action a celebrity or public figure has against the use of his/her name, likeness or life story in non-commercial speech is for false light or libel.
Legally Speaking, It Depends: Life Rights - Who, What, Why? (Christopher Schiller, Script Magazine, 11-12-13) Any contract for Life Rights boils down at its core to an agreement not to sue. Entertainment Attorney Schiller takes you through the in's and out's.
Life story rights: They don’t exist, but you should still get them(Bob Tarantino, Entertainment Media Law, 12-1-20) There are essentially five reasons why producers should enter into a life story rights agreement: release/waiver, access, cooperation, exclusivity, and E&O Insurance.
The Pros and Cons of Life Rights Agreements (International Documentary Association, slow-loading)
Do You Really Need Life Rights? (Writer's Digest, 3-5-18) Doug Richardson, writer of Die Hard 2, Bad Boys and Hostage, shares advice on whether you need to get the life rights before you start that screenplay.

Who owns the copyright? What does copyright protect (See especially the items about clearing life rights for documentaries.)
Sensitivity readers and sensitivity reading

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Assembling or appearing in anthologies--what you need to know

Generally speaking copyright in the author's work (individual stories or selections) should remain the sole property of the contributing author; copyright in the anthology "as a collective work" should belong either to the anthology publisher or to the editor(s) of the anthology, however that is worked out with the editor/publisher. Even if you pay the author for a selection, it is not "work for hire" -- it is a permission fee and you are free to allow the work to be published in other anthologies, too--or consider a bonus fee for exclusive rights for a limited period. The publisher does not need to own copyright on your work to publish it in an anthology. As a contributor to an anthology, know your rights! As editor or publisher of an anthology, be fair.
10 Tips For Self-Publishing A Multi-Author Anthology (Suw Charman-Anderson, Forbes, 10-23-13) She was putting together an anthology about women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) but the principles also work for altogether different themes:
Protecting Your Copyright in Anthology Contracts (Susan Spann, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, 12-18-14) Susan Spann has covered this topic beautifully. Read all of her articles on the topic, whether you're assembling the anthology or being included in it.
The Legal Side of Anthologies (Susan Spann, The Legal Side of Anthologies, Part 1, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, 10-16-14) Always have a contract and what all to know before you sign it.
Grants of Rights in Anthology Contracts (Susan Spann, Part 2 of The Legal Side of Writing for Anthologies, Writers in the Storm, 10-9-15) Make the grant of rights clear and not over-reaching.
The Legal Side of Writing for Anthologies (Susan Spann, Writers in the Storm, 6-9-17) Authors: Know your rights. Don't give them away.
Anthologies: A Few Thoughts (Brit Mandelo, TOR, 9-8-10) A bookseller on the quality of science fiction or fantasy anthologies. Interesting.
Hearing Voices: 6 Steps I Used for Creating an Anthology (Janie Reinart, Writer's Digest, 9-16-10) A life-changing experience (her son was deployed to war) led to her anthology (Love You More Than You Know: Mothers' Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War ed. Janie Reinart and Mary Ann Meyer) and here she summarizes the practical steps she took and others might take.

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Books about writing fiction

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."
~ E.L. Doctorow
"I aimed at the public's heart, and
by accident I hit it in the stomach."
~ Upton Sinclair
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration.
The rest of us just get up and go to work.”
~Stephen King

••••Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (10th ed.) by Janet Burroway (Start here.) See also Janet Burroway talks about Writing Fiction Carol Saller interviews JB on CMOS Shop Talk, 4-23-19).
Afterwords: Novelists on Their Novels by Thomas McCormack (Norman Mailer, Reynolds Price, Mary Renault, Mark Harris, Louis Auchincloss, John Fowles, Truman Capote, Anthony Burgess, William Gass, Wright Morris, Ross Macdonald, and others). McCormack, with whom I worked early in both our careers, was a legendary fiction editor who built St. Martin's Press into a major American publishing house. See also his eccentric but fascinating book The Fiction Editor, The Novel, and the Novelist
The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby. (“Truby attempts to inform the entire story, addressing plot, character, tone, symbolism, and dialog. The key here is to grow a script organically rather than force the story into preexisting mechanics . . . Highly recommended.” —Library Journal
The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell (emphasizes literary fiction, with many examples from The Great Gatsby.
The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis In The Creative Interpretation Of Human Motives by Lajos Egri
The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes by Joan Silber
The Art of Fiction Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts Lodge says this is a book for fiction writers and readers who like literary criticism in "small doses," a "book to browse in, and dip into." Illustrating from classic and contemporary fiction he explains such principlles as suspense, point of view, the unreliable narrator, the intrusive author, beginnings and endings, surprise, introduction of characters, the nonfiction novel, time-shift, repetition, intetextuality, stream of consciousness, metafiction, and magic realism. Biographer T.J. Stiles recommends it for writers of biography, too.
The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers by Ayn Rand, is based on a series of lectures she gave in 1958, after her novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead were well-known. This is the edited transcript of those lectures, dissecting her works and those of others. As reader L. Kraus comments, "The best part of this book is its tips on how to construct an exciting plot-from developing plot conflicts to compounding the burdens on protagonists, to creating the seminal event in which all conflicts converge....Rand also emphasized the importance of action to make visible a character's journey and that not all stories that record even a good character's impressions of the world make good stories..." quoting Rand as writing "I believe with Victor Hugo that the more melodramatic the action in which one can express the drama, the better the story. If you can unite the two--if you can give a relevant and logical physical expression to the spiritual conflict you present--then you have high-class drama."
The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera
Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster. A classic, lively "witty and opinionated" discussion (based on lectures given at Cambridge)of the fiction of Austen, Dickens, Fielding, Lawrence, Woolf, and others, noted especially for his discussion of "round" and "flat" characters.
Author in Progress: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published ed. by Therese Walsh, collection of essays by members of the popular Writer Unboxed website -- " the perfect no-nonsense guide for excelling at every step of the novel-writing process, from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication."
Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How To Write The Bad Guys Of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell (drama needs conflict, which may require bad guys; Morrell explains the subtle but key differences between unlikeable protagonists, anti-heroes, dark heroes, and bad boys)
Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter
Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress
•••• Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card. It's not just about characters and viewpoints, but those factors need a framework to define them, both for writing and for audience expectation. Card emphasizes four basic factors present in every story -- milieu, idea, character, and event -- with varying degrees of emphasis. "It is the balance among these factors that determines what sort of characterization a story must have, should have, or can have.”
Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 26th edition!)
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction (revised) by Damon Knight
The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass
The End of the Novel of Love by Vivian Gornick. Brilliant insights into some of the best novels and novelists on the theme of love.
The Fiction Editor, The Novel, and the Novelist by Thomas McCormack (the man who built St. Martin's Press into a fiction powerhouse)
The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass
The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler (ed. Janet Burroway)
Hemingway and His Conspirators: Hollywood,Scribners, and the Making of American Celebrity Culture by Leonard J. Leff. Did celebrity culture speed his artistic decline? In her Washington Post review, Carolyn See wrote "fascinating book, especially if you're interested in publishing, or ever wanted to write, or find yourself currently in that notoriously tortured profession. The narrative is full of information about pitiful print runs and lying editors and desperately bumbling ploys to sell books and the layers and layers of artifacts that surround the whole thorny, nutty conundrum that has to do with 'selling out,' whatever that is, and losing your 'integrity,' whatever that is."
The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing by Margot Livesey (“From the noted creative writing teacher and novelist, a smart, unpretentious guide to 'writing the life, shaping the novel.'… Would-be writers will find this both useful and inspiring, while general readers can simply enjoy Livesey's keen insights and engaging prose.”~starred Kirkus review)
Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Bestsellers by James W. Hall (who, with some of his students, deconstructs ("reverse engineers") 12 major bestsellers to identify their common elements)
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton
How 'Gatsby' Went From A Moldering Flop To A Great American Novel (Terry Gross, Fresh Air, interviews Maureen Corrigan, 9-8-14, about her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures . Her earlier book: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books (Patrick Brown, Goodreads blog, 6-7-16)
How Not to Write a Novel: Confessions of a Midlist Author by David Armstrong. "A midlist author is one whose books are well received but have failed to make a commercial breakthrough; whose work sells solidly but unspectacularly, who's well known within the writing community but the majority of book buyers have never heard his name."
How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
How St. Martin's Press Doubled Down on the Success of The Nightingale to Take It to Greater Heights (Patrick Brown posted, on Goodreads, 6-6-16)
How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them by Sol Stein
How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey (especially the chapter on dialogue)
How to Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers by Richard Cohen. Of these twelve essays, Booklist's reviewer writes, "[Cohen] escorts his readers to Iris Murdoch for sage counsel on launching a novel, to Salman Rushdie for shrewd guidance on developing an unreliable narrator, to Rudyard Kipling for a cagey hint on creating memorable minor characters, and to Leo Tolstoy for a master’s help in transforming personal experience into fictional art." In the Wall Street Journal ("The Elements of Style"), Stefan Beck writes "Not only does it cover the basic mechanics of storytelling in a genial, conversational way, but it also makes the literary sphere and literary life seem wilder and more enticing than any high-school English curriculum is allowed to do...An inquiry into the nature of plot takes as its jumping-off point his work on editing Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots (2004), a two-decade-plus project that Mr. Cohen describes, in an allusion to “Middlemarch,” as a “modern equivalent of Casaubon’s Key to All Mythologies.” This section is a reminder of how deeply the author and his lodestars have engaged with the issues under discussion."
Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway
The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction by John Dufresne
The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, ed. Alice LaPlante (how writers create -- for serious writing students and teachers)
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern (for advanced writing students -- excellent short-essay glossary, and useful material on "shapes," storytelling archetypes, such as The Journey and The Gathering)
The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall (a 16-step guide to structuring and plotting a novel, placing action and reaction scenes, plots and subsidiary plots--for those who work well with templates). He has a helpful Marshall Plan website. The book is now also available as software (co-authored with Martha Jewett).
Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway, and Other Greats by Adam Sexton
Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form by Madison Smartt Bell
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood
No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells< by Alice Orr (more useful than its gimmicky title suggests)
Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Rachel Randall, Writer's Digest)
101 Best Beginnings Every Written: A Romp Through Literary Openings For Writers And Readers and 101 Best Scenes Ever Written by Barnaby Conrad
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner (a classic on the writing life -- a good gift for an aspiring novelist)
••••On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (autobiography plus advice, stressing character and situation over plot, and above all saying to write and read a lot--excellent for the inexperienced fiction writer)
The Passionate, Accurate Story: Making Your Heart's Truth Into Literature by Carol Bly (encouraging writers to move beyond "technically competent stories to ones that are morally, politically, and emotionally deep")
Plot and Structure: Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish by James Scott Bell. (His LOCK theory: to have a gripping plot you must have a lead, who must have an objective; there must be confrontation and the ending must have "knockout power."_
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (2nd edition) by Patricia Highsmith
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
Putting the Science in Fiction: Expert Advice for Writing with Authenticity in Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Other Genres by Dan Koboldt. --"Koboldt has gathered experts in medicine, genetics, neurology, zoology, technology, and astronomy to correct the inaccurate depictions of science that often occur in fiction...The entries are brief, knowledgeable, and highly entertaining, like hearing an exasperated friend rant about his or her area of expertise." --Booklist
Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative by Peter Brooks
Rejection, Romance, and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick (Kindle, the dark side of the professional writing game--everything that can go wrong).
Revising fiction: A handbook for writers by David Madden (185 practical techniques for improving your story or novel -- using archival drafts by great writers to show how essential revision is to the best writing)
Revision And Self-Editing (Write Great Fiction) by James Scott Bell
••••Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (2nd ed.) by Renni Browne and Dave King. Two professional editors share their wisdom and good and bad examples of important techniques: show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view, the mechanics and sound (characters' voice) of dialogue, interior monologue, rhythm, variations in paragraph length, repetition, proportion, sophistication, and voice. Several people have recommended this as a primer on fiction writing.
Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, essays by Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose
So, Is It Done? Navigating the Revision Process, hosted by Janet Burroway (DVD)
Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin
••• Stein on Writing by Sol Stein (subtitle: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies), highly recommended by several of my writer friends
••• Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James, master of the genre
**** Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. (Readers praise this old book not for the $ angle but for solid tips on writing compelling fiction. Dated in details but not in basics of fiction writing.) "This is a master class in paperback. More so than any other how-to guide I’ve ever seen, Techniques breaks down storywriting into its most basic nuts and bolts, then shows how to assemble them into a compelling tale."--Carolyn Haley, in Storycraft for Novelists and Their Editors
Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness by Leon Z. Surmelian (why certain techniques work and where they are most useful for your fiction writing--with chapters on scene, summary and description, third person, first person, plot and plotting, character, stream of thought and interior monologue, traits of narrative prose and narrative style).
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block (informative and entertaining)
10 Novels About Novelists (Lisa Halliday, PW, 2-16-18)
• The Thesaurus collection (a specialized writers' series) by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi includes The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Places, as well as
The Urban Setting Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Attributes, The Negative Trait Thesaurus, and The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression.
Thinking Fiction: What Do Editors Read? (Part I) (Carolyn Haley, part of the excellent Thinking Fiction series on An American Editor, 10-12-16).
The 3rd Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay by Drew Yanno (the ending may be the most important part)
This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Moseley (for novices)
20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B Tobias
Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan
••••Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (9th ed.) by Janet Burroway (excellent)
Writing Fight Scenes by Rayne Hall (Writer's Craft series). Highly recommended for those who need to write fight scenes, by Carolyn Haley, in a piece called Fighting in Fiction (Thinking Fiction, An American Editor, 8-8-16). Writes Haley: "She calls one context the 'gritty fight scene' (realism and brevity required) and the other context the 'entertaining fight scene' (realism and brevity optional). Understanding the difference is key to determining whether a scene involving violent action is plausible." Other typical weak spots, writes Haley, are getting the facts wrong about weapons, especially firearms, and implausible character actions and reactions.
••• Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. The elements that make a novel stand out from the rest: "a powerful sense of time and place, larger-than-life characters, a high degree of tension, good subplots, and universal themes," how to construct stories and build suspense, elements needed to take a novel to the bestseller list). See also the novelist-turned-agent's The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler, illustrations by Michele Montez (a 'classic' for screenwriters, writers, and novelists)
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Al Zuckerman (Kindle, literary agent looks at characterizations, plot lines, points of view, and other essential features of five major novels)
Writing Romance Fiction for Love and Money by Helene Schellenberg Barnhart
Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by agent Donald Maass (making the most of both literary and commercial fiction, crossing over genres.
Your First Page by Peter Selgin. "[f]irst pages function like canaries in coal mines, forecasting success or predicting trouble. They establish the crucial bond between writer and reader, setting us off on a path toward the heart or climax of a story, or they fail to do so.

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Organizations and Sites for Fiction Writers and Fans

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)
American Crime Writers League (ACWL), crime fiction and true crime
Asian American Writers' Workshop (holds a short story contest)
Authors Guild, a nonprofit American organization of and for published authors, a strong advocate for authors' rights. Among benefits: Sitebuilder (a template for creating your own website), legal services, BackinPrint.com, listing in the directory of member websites .
British Science Fiction Association
Carl Brandon Society (whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction)
The Center for Fiction (NYC, The Mercantile Library)
Chick Lit Writers of the World (a special-interest online chapter of Romance Writers of America -- all sub-genres from spicy to inspirational to young adult to paranormal)
Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group (CSFW)
Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP's) links to resources for writers
Crime Indie Authors (new Facebook group)
Crime Writers' Association (CWA), UK
Crime Writers (a Yahoo group for those interested in writing or currently writing crime fiction--police procedurals, noir, hard-boiled, etc.)
Crime Writers of Canada
Crime Thru Time (Yahoo group for historical mysteries, discussing history, culture, authors, and mysteries)
Dear Author(bloggers/readers/reviewers who love genre fiction, especially as e-books)
Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) (to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media)
Erotica Readers & Writers Association (site contains material intended for adults)
Fiction Forum (where fiction lovers come to play)
Ghostwriting, and ghostwriters of, fiction
Historical Novel Society (a community for authors, readers, agents, and publishers--"home of historical fiction online")
Historical Romance (Goodreads group)
Historical Writers' Association (British organization for writers of historical fiction and nonfiction, founded by members of the Crime Writers' Association)
Horror Writers Association (HWA)
International Association of Crime Writers (North American Branch)
International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW) (a professional organization for authors of books based on TV shows, movies, and games)
International Thriller Writers (ITW). Read ITW's history and The Big Thrill ITW's magazine).
Malice Domestic (May convention saluting the traditional, especially "cozy," mystery, where fans buy books from enthusiastic, often new, writers) and The Usual Suspects (the Malice Domestic newsletter); Malice Domestic awards.
Mayhem in the Midlands (May crime fiction conference sponsored by Omaha Public Library)
Murder Must Advertise (free e-mail discussion list about how to promote new mysteries)
Mystery Writers' Forum (threaded bulletin board)
Mystery Writers of America (MWA)
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA, an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation)
Novelists, Inc (NINC), the only writers organization devoted exclusively to the needs of career novelists -- multi-published novelists -- of all genres. "The average NINC member has sixteen published novels." Features blog entries, searchable by category and an annual conference.
PEN American Center. Poets, Essays, & Novelists -- a global literary community, providing particular support in countries where literature is not so free. A bit of a snoot factor--for example, single tickets to an award event in 2014 were $1,250 or you could buy a table for $12,500 and up).
Poets & Writers (nonprofit organization for poets and fiction writers, site with useful searchable database, among other features)
The Private Eye Writers of America
Romance Writers of America (RWA)
Romance Writers of Australia
Romantic Novelists' Association (UK)
Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
SF Canada (Canada's National Association of Speculative Fiction Professionals)
SFF Net and SFF Net People Pages, for discussing all varieties of genre literature, from science fiction, fantasy and horror to romance, mystery and military. Going offline in 2017, for $$ reasons.
Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG)
Sisters in Crime ("SinC into a good mystery"). Check out local chapters.
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI)
Western Writers of America (WWA) (freelance writers of Western fiction and nonfiction).
Women's Fiction Writers Association An inclusive organization of writers creating layered stories in which the plot is driven by the main character's emotional journey. Conference, workshops, newsletter (Read on!), and critique programs.
Women Writing the West (supports authors and other professionals in promoting the contributions women made to the history, culture and growth of the American West)
Writing Excuses. Super website on writing fiction, with short podcasts ("Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.") and transcripts. Not recommended if you are distractable.
Writing Groups, by region and state (Writer's Relief, an author's submission service, has a good directory of groups for creative writers, by state and region, with a focus on self-publishing services). See also Local and regional U.S. writers organizations on this Writers and Editors website, which is broader in focus and geared more to traditional publishing.
Writer Unboxed (about the craft and business of fiction)

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More advice, sites, and resources for fiction writers

(alphabetical by title and occasionally topic,
with an occasional 'hot new item' up front)

Is Amazon Changing the Novel? (Parul Sehgal, New Yorker, 10-25-21) In the new literary landscape, readers are customers, writers are service providers, and books are expected to offer instant gratification. One Amazon division, Kindle Direct Publishing (K.D.P.), allows writers to bypass traditional gatekeepers and self-publish their work for free, with Amazon taking a significant chunk of any proceeds. Genre is, in particular, the key to having one’s book “discovered” on Amazon, where titles are neatly slotted into an intricate grid of categories.
‘Everything and Less’ Review: Fiction in Prime Time (Sam Sacks, WSJ, 9-5-21) Amazon has transformed the way we read books—and, according to Mark McGurl, how they’re written. "Most literary studies focustheir insights on the writers they consider the best, or the most significantartistically. But Amazon, being primarily a retail platform, doesn’t care aboutthe content of books, only about how they sell and to whom. So under its hegemony the books suddenly elevated in stature belong to the traditionally“down-market sub-basement” commercial genres. In other words, like a private eye or tabloid journalist, Mr. McGurl spends his time digging through trash.

      “In the Age of Amazon,all fiction is genre fiction. Dividing contemporary literature into a vast array of searchable genre categories, each with its own best-seller list, Amazon is the host of a genre system conceived as an engine of infinitely infoliating permutations of objects of narrative desire.” The most popular of those categories are post-apocalyptic fantasy sagas and romance novels, and Mr.McGurl devotes interpretive space to exemplars from each: Hugh Howey’s “Wool” series and E.L. James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy. These books are also notable for having been originally self-published, and it is through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform that the company has shown its true service-oriented ethos. Here writers can target increasingly niche customer wishes, and Mr.McGurl has a funny chapter on the explosion of fetish lit, like Adult Baby Diaper Lover erotica, “the quintessential Amazonian genre of literature.” '
Steve Hamilton And The New 'Disrupters' In The Book Publishing Industry (Charles Taylor, Forbes, 9-10-19) "While there is some controversy as to how many novelists can make a living by writing alone, the best estimates suggest that there are only between 1,000 and 1,500 fiction authors who make enough to support themselves.
The opportunity to make a massive change in his life came when [Steve Hamilton] was asked to join The Story Factory, a unique new literary and media agency founded by Hollywood screenwriter and producer Shane Salerno. When it became obvious that the publisher was not to going to provide adequate marketing and advertising support for Hamilton’s next novel, The Second Life of Nick Mason, Salerno ended up using a quarter of a million dollars of his own money to buy out the contract with St. Martin’s Press, with whom Hamilton had been working for 17 years. The move made front-page news across the industry.
      "Within 24 hours of the buyout, Salerno had negotiated a new multi-book contract with Penguin Putnam. Hamilton remained there for three more books until Blackstone – the leading audio publisher who was now making a major move into the print market – made Salerno and Hamilton a unique offer. Hamilton and two other prominent mystery authors represented by The Story Factory – Meg Gardiner and Reed Farrel Coleman – signed historic new contracts that would not only give them larger advances but would also guarantee dedicated marketing budgets to be used at the authors’ discretion."

About Literary Magazines and Presses (Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, CLMP) "Who we are and what we believe."
• "All my stories have been written with material that was gathered—no, God save us! Not gathered but absorbed—before I was fifteen years old." ~ Willa Cather
Alone, With Words (Jed Perl, New Republic, 6-9-10) Why writers can’t live to please their readers.
AltX Online Network ("Where the Digerati meet the Literati"--cutting-edge fiction, criticism, and hypertext)
An Editor (Who Helped 'The Help') and an Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to Alexandra Shelley (editor of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help") and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discussing revision, publishing, and how to know when a book is 'finished' (on She Writes Radio). Titled 'How Books Get Finished: Editor And Agent Talk About Revision.'
American Masters Series: The American Novel (PBS archives, from James Baldwin to Gore Vidal)

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An Editor (Who Helped 'The Help') and an Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to Alexandra Shelley (editor of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help") and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discussing revision, publishing, and how to know when a book is 'finished' (on She Writes Radio). Titled 'How Books Get Finished: Editor And Agent Talk About Revision.'
Archetypes vs. Clichés (literary agent Nathan Bransford, 3-2-10) "There are many, many stories involving a young man, often of unknown/mysterious parentage, who suddenly realizes he’s the chosen one and has to embark on a quest against impossible odds to save his people. And yet Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, David and Goliath, and countless other stories are all different and beloved....At the same time, especially when dealing with very familiar arcs, there’s a very fine line between archetype and cliché."
Articles from Poets & Writers (on poetry, literature, writing, and the arts)
Atwood's Rules for Writing Fiction
“You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine."
~ Rule 7 of Margaret Atwood's Ten Rules For Writing Fiction (part of the wonderful Guardian collection of essays by many authors (Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy). And here's part two of the Guardian series (Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson). Not in that series but in the same spirit, what Western novelist Louis L'Amour said: "Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on."
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Author Links for Mystery Authors (Mainely Murders bookstore's links)
Authors catch fire with self-published e-books .Carol Memmott, USA Today, 2-11, reports that young Amanda Hocking's self-published (digitally) young-adult paranormal novels are selling hundreds of thousands of copies through online bookstores.

Author Links for Mystery Authors (Mainely Murders bookstore's links)
Authors catch fire with self-published e-books .Carol Memmott, USA Today, 2-11, reports that young Amanda Hocking's self-published (digitally) young-adult paranormal novels are selling hundreds of thousands of copies through online bookstores.
Autobiographical Fiction: Using Your Real Life To Craft Great Fiction (Taylor Houston, LitReactor, 2-29-12) "When converting truth to fiction, it's best to cull only the essential and leave all the rest. Fiction writers have complete license to keep only the best tidbits of the story. Even memoirs can benefit from a little cutting. Keeping only the juiciest bits and tossing the less-than-interesting parts into the compost is a smart way to use a piece of truth to its full fictional advantage. ...Unlike memoir, which can be forgiven for presenting events in a less-than narratively perfect way, any real life details in autobiographical fiction must neatly line up with other plot elements in the story."
Awards, grants, fellowships, and competitions

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Boxers, Briefs and Books. John Grisham's op-ed piece on what hard work writing is, one theme of the forthcoming collection Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit, ed. by Sonny Brewer (with stories by Grisham, Pat Conroy, Rick Bragg, and many other authors.
The Breakout Novelist (interesting Writania video interview about fiction techniques that keep readers reading, with agent Donald Maass, author of The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers
The Bulwer-LyttonFiction Contest (where "www" means "wretched writers welcome").
The Business Rusch: Surviving the Transition, Part 1 by fiction writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. An interesting series about how writers might deal with the enormous changes rocking and reshaping the book publishing industry. It comes in four parts:
---The Business Rusch: Surviving the Transition, Part 1
---Publishers (Surviving the Transition, Part 2)
---Agents (Surviving the Transition, Part 3
---(Plan for the Future (Surviving the Transition Part 4).
By Heart (The Atlantic) Authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature.

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Barbara Pym and the New Spinster (Hannah Rosefield, New Yorker, 4-3-15) A Barbara Pym-like sensibility is ascendant among women writing for the Web—and her depictions of female singleness, even in marriage, is key to understanding her resurgence in popularity. ("Pym herself never married, though she had many more affairs than her characters do.") Note all the years no publisher would publish her, then suddenly they did.
The Best of Autofiction (Cal Flyn interviews Olivia Laing about five works of 'autofiction' that have influenced her: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood; Eurydice in the Underworld by Kathy Acker; I Love Dick by Chris Kraus; Not Me by Eileen Myles; and Black Wave by Michelle Tea. Laing is the author of Crudo and The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone.
Between Books (Ann Packer, NY Times Book Review, 5-29-15). What do novelists do between finishing one book and starting the next?
The Biggest Mistake Beginning Writers Make (NY Book Editors) Nearly all beginning writers overwrite, using five words where two will do, or describing something in three sentences instead of one. "verwriting can be a big problem: it’s clunky; it’s sloppy; and heavy, overwrought passages can pull your reader out of an active moment they should be living alongside your characters."
Black day for the blue pencil (Blake Morrison, The Observer, 8-5-05) Once they were key figures in literary publishing, respected by writers who acknowledged their contribution to shaping books. But, argues Morrison, editors are now an endangered species.
Blake Morrison on the paltry sales of literary fiction (Guardian Unlimited, Oct. 19, 2007) Two recent surveys have found that 60 percent of British authors earn less than 10,000 pounds a year
Blogs on The Art of Writing (CrimeSpot.net)
Book Advances, Royalty Checks, And Making A Living as a Writer (Adriann Ranta, Fiction Factor)

---In Defence of the Novel -- an essay by George Orwell. “Novels are being shot at you at the rate of fifteen a day,” he wrote in an essay, “and every one of them an unforgettable masterpiece which you imperil your soul by missing.”
---Is It Time to Kill the Book Blurb? (Cody Delistraty, WSJ, 2-24-21) The pre-publication endorsements—“dazzling!” “a masterwork!”—that litter book covers have long been a staple of publishing. Are they of any value or mere relics that deserve to go?
The Book-Club Hustlers (Francesca Mari, Daily Beast, 7-6-09) Enterprising fiction writers are marketing themselves to book groups in person, by phone, and over Skype to boost sales. Meet the new breed of literary types on the make.
Book Publishers and Editors Who Buy Debut Novels (John Kremer's list of book editors in real book publishing companies who buy first novels)
Business and Creativity Go Hand in Hand: Q&A with Kern Carter (Kristen Tsetsi on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-13-22) "Studying the industry ... gave me an understanding of what it would take to make my manuscript a commercial success. And I know some authors might be cringing at the word “commercial,” but I didn’t sacrifice an ounce of creativity when writing Boys and Girls Screaming.

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Can I Make A Living As A Novelist? (Nancy Henderson, Freelance Writing) Good practical advice and questions.
Can I use other people's names and stories? (PDF, Jane Friedman, Writer's Digest) Thorough discussion, good for fiction AND memoirs.
Close to Home: Writing the Small and the Intimate (Lee Martin, blog post 10-12-15)
Collaborative fiction
(when three or more authors write together and share creative control of a story)
---Popular Collaborative Fiction Books (Goodreads)
---7 Collaborative Storytelling Websites to Weave Your Own Digital Stories (Saikat Basu, MakeUseOf, 1-10-11)
---Writing a collective novel: why many minds are better than one (John Simmons, The Guardian, 7-26-13) Lone writers locked in the attic? A new project is rejecting old stereotypes and bringing 15 writers together to collaborate. See Dark Angels.
---The Power of Collaboration: Double the output, double the fun - With Rhett Bruno and Steve Beaulieu (mp3, SPF-126, Mark Dawson's Self-Publishing Formula) 52.29 minutes, audio-streamed
---Fiction by Committee (Kay Bolden, Medium) Can you leave your writer's ego at the door?
---The Best Collaborative Novels in Science Fiction (Alex Carnevale, io9, 10-9-18)
---3 YA Author Collaborations that Prove 2 Heads Are Better Than One (Caitlin White, Bustle, 12-5-13)
---Collaborative fiction (Wikipedia links to many examples and explanations)
The Complete Guide to Query Letters That Get Manuscript Requests (Jane Friedman, 9-7-16) The query letter's purpose is to seduce the agent or editor into reading your work. This post is a mini-bible on writing a query letter for your novel.
Creative writing prompts (pick a number)
•  Could the creator economy work for fiction authors? (Elle Griffin, The Novelleist, Substack newsletter 5-9-21) Profitable trash, the serial novel (think "Game of Thrones"), crowdfunding on Kickstarter, and which platform is best for fiction writers: Wattpad, Patreon, Substack, or Amazon Vella?

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Deep point of view. Michelle Massaro offers four tips, on RT Book Reviews blog
Don’t Anyone Put Me in Charge (Hugh Howey, 1-8-14) Some interesting ideas here, among them: "Readers are the ones who build buzz, on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. On their review blogs and on Goodreads. Forget Publishers Weekly. Forget Kirkus. That’s trying to fashion bestsellers through bookstores. Bestsellers happen through readers. Through social media. So we are going to get them the ebook immediately, and price it low enough ($6.99 or less) that they’ll pick up a print copy if they love the work."..."It never ceased to amaze me, working in a bookstore, to see all the promotional money spent while the least-desired format (the hardback) was released. And then a whimper when the paperback came out." "Print needs to appeal to the high end and the disposable end."
Don’t Poke the Editor: Six Deadly Don’ts (and Dos) for Dealing with Editors (Susan J. Morris, Omnivoracious, 8-20-12)
• . Think of Drafts as Rehearsals (Jamie Lee Wallace, Short and Sweet Advice for Writers, Live to Write--Write to Live, 12-22-15)
Drawing Power (Bob Thompson, Wash Post, 8-24-08) His long Washington Post story on SPLAT! A Graphic Novel Symposium, or Prose Guy on "how this formerly ghettoized medium became one of the rare publishing categories that's actually expanding."
Dystopian Fiction
---Lauren DeStefano & Moira Young Share Advice on Writing Dystopian Fiction (Maryann Yin, GalleyCat, 2-21-12)
---Writing Dystopian Fiction: 7 Tips (Roderick Vincent, author of the upcoming Minutemen series about a dystopian America, on Writer's Digest, 12-8-14) #2. Discover what the central theme is and then explore it with indefatigable passion. #5. Uncover truth in the morass of the present by projecting the problems of today into the future and amplifying them. #7. Entrench yourself in current affairs,
---Utopian and dystopian fiction (Wikipedia, which provides good reading lists)
---A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction (Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 6-5/12-17) What to make of our new literature of radical pessimism. "The argument of dystopianism is that perfection comes at the cost of freedom....In its modern definition, a dystopia can be apocalyptic, or post-apocalyptic, or neither, but it has to be anti-utopian, a utopia turned upside down, a world in which people tried to build a republic of perfection only to find that they had created a republic of misery."
---The Rise of Dystopian Fiction: From Soviet Dissidents to 70's Paranoia to Murakami (Yvonne Shiau, Electric Lit, 7-26-17) Charting the wild progress of literature’s genre-of-the-moment
---Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future From Mary Shelley to Margaret Atwood, feminist science fiction writers have imagined other ways of living that prompt us to ask, could we do things differently? (Naomi Alderman, The Guardian, 3-15-17) The answers are often dystopian. The Handmaid's Tale is probably the most famous work of feminist speculative fiction ever published; certainly it's one with a huge and appreciative audience outside the borders of the “genre” science fiction and fantasy readership.
---Fresh Hell (Laura Miller, A Critic at Large, New Yorker, 6-14/21-10) What's behind the boom in dystopian fiction for young readers? "The world of our hovered-over teens and preteens may be safer, but it’s also less conducive to adventure, and therefore to adventure stories....Dystopian fiction may be the only genre written for children that’s routinely less didactic than its adult counterpart. It’s not about persuading the reader to stop something terrible from happening—it’s about what’s happening, right this minute, in the stormy psyche of the adolescent reader."

18 strategies for brainstorming a title, an excellent guide to developing great titles, from Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers by Scott Norton, posted on Scrib'd.
11 Signs You’re Ready to Self-Publish (Kim Catanzarite on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-2-21) 1. The agents, by and large, are not responding with feedback or questions. 2. You’ve taken your manuscript through the whole nine yards of the editing process 10. You're a self-starter.

Epigraphs. Novelists love to start chapters with brief quotations from other writers' work. Is this fair use? Carolyn Haley answered this question succinctly on the Copyediting-L listserv: " Epigraphs from book-length material can fall under 'fair use' comfortably as long as they are a line or two. Song lyrics and poetry,  however, because of their brevity, are problematic for even a single phrase. Best practice is to obtain permission or do without." Beautifully succinct.

Experimental fiction: is it making a comeback? (William Sidelsky, The Guardian/The Observer, 8-1-10) Skidelsky looks at the resurgence of literary experimentation, and the writers on radical form.
Elmore Leonard shoots his way into the Library of America (Neely Tucker, Washington Post, 8-29-14) Novelist George Higgins gets a pat on the back, too.
Erotic novels
---Amazon Is Burying Sexy Books, Sending Erotic Novel Authors to the 'No-Rank Dungeon' (Samantha Cole, Motherboard, 3-29-18) Erotica authors say that removing best seller ranks on Amazon hurts their bottom line.
---Here's How Patreon Politely Makes It Impossible for Adult Content Creators (Samantha Cole, Motherboard, 11-10-17) The crowdfunding site said there’s nothing to worry about, but at least one adult content creator is already being sent violation notices
---Goodreads' Erotic Book Lists (they show stars, and they're now owned by Amazon, if I'm not mistaken)
---My dirty little secret: I've been writing erotic novels to fund my PhD (Academics Anonymous, Higher Education Network, The Guardian, 9-2-16) 'Don’t breathe a word, my mentor advised me. They were right – I’ve had some odd reactions from the few colleagues I’ve told.' ‘There’s something ironic about the fact that thousands more people have read these novels than will ever read my thesis or academic articles.’
Esquire's 70 Greatest Sentences. Seventy lines that sparkle, invoke, provoke, or are just damn enjoyable to read. Both fiction and nonfiction, including: "But at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn't work--and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Pasting It Together," 1936
Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully: in Ten Minutes (Stephen King's now-classic article, which appeared in The Writer in 1986, reprinted on the Great Writing site).
Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask) (Lincoln Michel, Electric Literature, 7-1-16) An In-Depth Look at What/How/Why Books Sell.

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Fake Name Generator
Fan Fiction (an explanation) and Frequently asked questions (and answers) about fan fiction (Chilling Effects Clearinghouse)
Fiction Factor (online magazine for fiction writers)
Fiction's Global Crime Wave (Alexandra Alter, WSJ, 7-2-10) Detective novels from Japan, Nigeria, Germany and Korea are pouring into the U.S. as publishers hunt for the next 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.'
Fiction's powers of persuasion. "“There’s something that fiction can do that nonfiction cannot,” [Jodi] Picoult said. “A lot people will not address a controversial subject in nonfiction, but they pick up a novel, and they think they’re being entertained, and almost by accident, by the time they close that last page, they realize they are being forced to re-evaluate whatever opinions they have when they started the book.... Where I believe that nonfiction has the obligation to chronicle the past and what has happened, fiction has the opportunity to change minds, change the future, and change the course of what will happen.” Jodi Picoult discusses the facts of fiction (Braden Kelner, The Tartan, 10-26-14) Or, as one writer told us, "If you get the facts right, the reader will buy the fiction."
Fiction Writers Review (online journal by, for, and about emerging writers)
15 Literary journals for Los Angeles writers (author Siel Ju). And you can sign up to get a free copy of A Guide to Literary Los Angeles
'Fifty Shades Of Grey': Publishing's Sexiest Trend (Jason Boog, on NPR, 3-15-12). See also Will Fifty Shades of Grey Inspire More Fan Fiction Writers to Publish? (Jason Boog, Galley Cat 3-16-12). An unknown author named E L James recently "scored a seven-figure book deal with Vintage Books to publish her erotica trilogy,Fifty Shades of Grey."
Finding My Father (Erica Bauermeister, guest blogger on One True Thing, Psychology Today, 1-23-13). "My characters are never based on people I know, but sometimes I come to realize that I have been writing a particular story in order to figure out something in my own life. Occasionally it takes years after publication for me to see what a more intuitive part of my psyche was offering up for my education, but sometimes it only takes a sentence."
The Fine Art of Ambiguous Writing: The Power of Omission (Joe Fassler, By Heart, The Atlantic, 2-24-15) In "successful storytelling: There’s as much significance in what’s left out as in what’s actually said....The hard part is non-disclosure. This is really a crucial tenet of narration, perhaps the crucial tenet—and it’s not an innate skill. How do we learn how not to tell things?"
First Person or Third Person? (agent Nathan Bransford, 7-9-07). In first person, "everything that occurs has to be filtered through your narrator's perspective" and "the narrator has to be compelling and likeable." That's for starters. An interesting explanation.
The five randoms (Four YA and MG authors and on Tuesdays a guest writer...) A site and blog for authors, readers, editors, and agents who love preteen and young adult fiction.
5 Writing Tips: Barbara Kingsolver (Barbara Kingsolver, PW, 10-12-18) "Writer’s block is another name for writer’s dread—the paralyzing fear that our work won’t measure up...To begin, give yourself permission to write a bad book. Then revise until it’s not a bad book."
Found in Translation, Times op-ed piece by novelist Michael Cunningham (author of The Hours) on translations into a foreign language, and on how he learned that all writing is "a translation from the images in the author’s mind to that which he is able to put down on paper."

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Free downloadable e-books on writing, from Michael Allen:
On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile by Michael Allen: http://www.kingsfieldpublications.co.uk/rats.PDF
The Truth about Writing ("an essential handbook for novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters" by Michael Allen, free on Scribd):http://www.scribd.com/doc/17414179/The-Truth-about-Writing
How to Write a Short Story That Works (by Michael Allen, via Scribd)
Discovered through John Kremer's Book Marketing Tip of the Week: http://www.bookmarket.com/

Gender bias in fiction publishing?
On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women (Meg Wolitzer, NYTBR, 3-30-12) "If “The Marriage Plot,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, had been written by a woman yet still had the same title and wedding ring on its cover, would it have received a great deal of serious literary attention? Or would this novel (which I loved) have been relegated to “Women’s Fiction,” that close-quartered lower shelf where books emphasizing relationships and the interior lives of women are often relegated?"
Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name (Catherine Nichols, Jezebel, 8-4-15).
Female Novelist Learns How Far a Male Pen Name Can Take Her (Teresa Justino, MarySue.com, 8-5-15). Interesting discussion in comments about why Harry Potter was written by "J.K. Rowling."
The VIDA Count (Women in Literary Arts). An annual study on women in publishing. See also the Women of Color VIDA Count
Gender Bias: Fact or Fiction? (Julia Munroe Martin, Writer Unboxed, 10-11-14)

Glimmer Train's wonderful resources for writers
---29 Substantial Pieces (advice on particular aspects of fiction writing, from character development to revision)
---Resources for Writers

Granta's once-a-decade list of rising novelists is more important than ever (Philip Hensher, The Independent, 12-31-12). In an increasingly crowded book market, this list of Who will be Who matters to readers because, on the whole, it has got things right. See Best Young Novelists 2013 , which contains links to earlier and different lists of Best Young Novelists (British lists and American).

The Ghost of Miss Truman (Jon L. Breen, in The Weekly Standard, on ghosted celebrity novels, Margaret Truman, and Donald Bain). See also Ghostwriting, and ghostwriters of, fiction

Glimmer Train Bulletin Archives (authors' insights into fiction writing)
Go Small to Go Big (Jane Delury, Glimmer Train, Dec. 2018) "When you feel overwhelmed with your novel or story draft, I suggest that you close that file or put that stack of paper on the floor....instead of going back to fix a scene or make a stretch of dialogue more interesting, I suggest that you set yourself the goal of writing a perfect sentence. This sentence doesn't need to have anything to do with the work that you were wrestling."
The Graveyard Shift (Lee Lofland's blog, a guide to "all things cops and robbers")
The Guardian (UK, on books) See also Lifestyle, Culture, etc.

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Handbook for Literary Translators, New (PEN America)
Handy Chart That Automatically Generates a Pitch for Your New Novel (Electric Lit, 3-28-18) Humor. Take one from Column A, one from Column B, etc.
Holly Lisle's pages for fiction writers
Horror in YA Lit is a Staple, Not a Trend (Kelly Jensen, School Library Journal, 9-13-13)
How a Christmas Present Gave Harper Lee the Time to Write To Kill a Mockingbird (Joseph Crespino, Lit Hub, 5-8-18)
• How long should a novel be? Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 10-24-12)

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How I (Barely) Survived the Abject Failure of My Much Hyped Debut Novel David Hollander Tells a Cautionary Tale for Us All (LitHub, 3-10-21)
How I Wrote My Novel in Two Years and Other Accounting Tricks (Rachel Heng, Glimmer Train). Some of us count only time spent at the computer to be writing. Heng realized, after the fact: "Many of my creative breakthroughs happened on my evening commute home or while sitting in a meeting room or walking through the fifteenth overpriced wedding venue that week. All those other commitments took time away from the actual writing, but what I'm realising now is they also gave my subconscious the room to figure out characters and worlds and plot problems. All the time I thought of as 'wasted' had never been wasted after all. Everything goes into writing, everything is writing."
How long should your chapters be? (Lisa Poisso, 1-5-16)
How Not to Write a Novel (the blog for Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman's instruction guide for aspiring novelists, How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide)
How one author went from $0 to selling $40k a month on Amazon (YouTube video, 1:23:28, 12-26-16) Michael Anderle went from nothing on November 1st of 2015—no platform, no readers, no sales—to over $40,000 in gross sales on Amazon in June of 2016 alone. Among golden tidbits: If you have 10 ideas for a novel, try writing short-story versions of each, say 3,000 words, and ask beta readers to read them. Ask them to score each one (as 1, 2, or 3) as to how they feel about it and go with the ideas for which you got mostly 1's:
   1. Tell me more (that is, they would pay $2.99 to read what follows.)
   2. This is good. (But not compelling.)
   3. Couldn't even finish it.

You can sell novels, he says, if you have a cover that matters, a blurb that's decent, and good writing in a genre that enough people want to read.
How to Break the Rules. Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency posts Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Rules of Writing and Elmore Leonard's rules, and gives examples of writers who have successfully broken some of the rules. Her blog, Book Cannibal, is about fiction.
How to Critique Fiction (Victory Crayne)
How to Edit Your Novel (agent Nathan Bransford, 5-3-11)
How to Format Your Manuscript (agent Nathan Bransford, 2-14-07)
How to Sell a Book? Good Old Word Of Mouth (read or listen to Lynn Neary, NPR, 9-10-10 on the launching of Emma Donoghue's novel Room, from which NPR posts an excerpt.)
How to Think Like a Writer (Carolyn Gregoire, Huff Post, 5-15-14) "Many great writers, including Joan Didion and Don DeLillo, have said that their purpose for putting words on paper is to find clarity with their thoughts, and have described the process of writing as one of becoming familiar with their own minds." Advice from the masters.
How to Write a Great Novel (Alexandra Alter, WSJ, 11-6-09). From writing in the bathroom (Junot Díaz) to dressing in character (Nicholson Baker), 11 top authors share their methods for getting the story on the page
How to Write a Novel (an overview by agent Nathan Bransford, 8-17-10)
How to Write a Novel in ony 15 steps (Reedsy, 3-25-19) Simplified, and partly a pitch for a paid course, but some useful information here.
How to Write a Short Story That Works (Michael Allen, free download on Scribd)

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How to write a synopsis, a summary, or a blurb
---How to Write a Synopsis (Nathan Bransford)
---The Dreaded Synopsis by romance writer Elizabeth Sinclair
A "Secret" Formula for Creating a Short Synopsis for Your Book (Mike Wells, 5-15-11)
---Story Synopsis Quiz (Mike Wells)
---How to Write a Brilliant Blurb for Your Book (Mike Wells on how a blurb is different from a synopsis, among other things)
---Summaries, Synopses, and Blurbs (WriteWorld's excellent brief explanations and links to good examples)

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How Women See How Male Authors See Them (Katy Waldman, New Yorker, 4-3-18) "Most men would have noticed her bosoms but I, an intellectual, saw her real appeal, the butt."@SusanElizabeth
The Hum Inside the Skull, Revisited (symposum, 1-16-05). The NY Times asked a group of fiction writers, age 40 or younger, which writer or writers who had most influenced their work and to explain how. Read responses from Susan Choi, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nell Freudenberger, Jhumpa Lahiri, JT Leroy, Maile Meloy, Gary Shteyngart, Zadie Smith, Colson Whitehead
Hypertext technologies for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (Eastgate, Storyspace, serious interactive writing)

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"I have found, in short, from reading my own writing, that my subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil. I have also found that what I write is read by an audience which puts little stock either in grace or the devil. You discover your audience at the same time and in the same way...that you discover your subject; but it is an added blow." 

      ~ Flannery O'Connor, from "In the Devil's Territory"
• Implied authors and real-world authors. Krugman, Krauthammer and Their Implied Authors (Cass R. Sunstein, Bloomberg, 12-10-12). "Implied authors may or may not be like their real-world counterparts. A novelist may be cruel and vicious to his family and friends, but in his novels, his implied author may be kind and gentle. A poet who is a loving wife and mother may produce poetry whose implied author is venomous and full of rage." A fascinating explanation of how things work in fiction and narrative nonfiction. But he also applies it to political discussions: "...the characteristics of implied authors tend to be contagious. In particular, contempt and suspicion, and a fundamental lack of generosity, spread like wildfire."
• The Institute of Children's Literature publishes a useful newsletter ($20 a year) for children's book writers, but also provides many useful articles and transcripts free onlne, at Rx for Writers (a topical index for articles and transcripts on writing for children)
In Storytelling: Never State What You Can Imply (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-11-18) '“Never state what you can imply” differs from “show, don’t tell,” that oldest of creative writing chestnuts, in that it allows for times when implication can’t always be achieved through action or “showing.” Sometimes—often in fact—we rely on the narrator’s intervention to interpret or color characters’ experiences and actions for us.'
Interactive fiction
---The Interactive Mystery Database (IFDB)
---The Interactive Fiction Archive
---The Interactive Fiction Competition (IF Comp) An annual celebration of new, text-driven digital games and stories from independent creators.
---people's republic of intraction fiction (boston's if interest group)
---FAQ (The ifwiki Interactive Fiction FAQ
---Interactive fiction (Wikipedia's useful explanation: "Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, is software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives, either in the form of Interactive narratives or Interactive narrations. These works can also be understood as a form of video game, either in the form of an adventure game or role-playing game.
---Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (IFTF, helps ensure the ongoing maintenance, improvement, and preservation of the tools and services crucial to the creation and distribution of interactive fiction)
---Top novelists look to ebooks to challenge the rules of fiction (Vanessa Thorpe, The Observer, 3-9-13). Leading British authors drawn to experiment with the scope of interactive storytelling
---Serious hypertext. Tinderbox is revolutionary software, a personal content assistant that helps you visualize, analyze, and share your notes, plans, and ideas. Storyspace is the place to keep your ideas together on your laptop or desktop computer.
---Protagonize (blog/musings about collaborative, interactive writing, storytelling--no longer a community but content still online)
---The Amanda Project (the first collaborative, interactive fiction series for girls aged 13 and up. The story unfolds across an interactive website). See The Amanda Project: Book 1: invisible I by Amanda Valentino and Melissa Kantor. The first interactive, collaborative mystery series for girls 13 and up. Review: “An amazingly creative interactive mystery that will draw you in from page one. Secrets, lies, cryptic notes, confusing clues, tattoos and missing persons all contribute to the drama swirling around Amanda as you turn each page. Get addicted to the enigma that is Amanda.” (--Justine Magazine)

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In Their Own Words? Maybe (Julie Bosman, NY Times, 6-1-11). There is an understanding among publishers, editors and agents that ghostwriters are behind many novels by celebrities. Says Bob Gottlieb, “It’s a way to extend the footprint of the celebrity.”
Joyce Carol Oate speaking at Book Passage) s (FORA.tv video, 51 minutes) about her novel The Gravedigger's Daughter, much of which is based on her grandmother, Blanche Morningstar. She speaks of setting as being almost like a character.
I Do Believe in Literature. What Does It Mean to Be Someone Else? (Jeff Maehre, Talking Writing, 3-7-11)

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• Jane Austen. The Word Choices That Explain Why Jane Austen Endures (Kathleen A. Flynn and Josh Katz, Words By Numbers, NY Times, 7-6-17) “Literary history is shaped by the fact that readers select a literary work, keeping it alive across the generations, because they like some of its prominent traits.” What traits make Austen special, and can they be measured with data? Can literary genius be graphed? Data scientists analyze the vocabulary in Jane's novels, compared with 125 other British authors. Her gifts include "acute emotional intelligence, and a rare ability to render it in stories that amuse even as they instruct."

•"Jellybooks tracks reading behavior the same way Netflix knows what shows you binge-watch and Spotify knows what songs you skip." Here is how it works: the company gives free e-books to a group of readers, often before publication. Rather than asking readers to write a review, it tells them to click on a link embedded in the e-book that will upload all the information that the device has recorded. The information shows Jellybooks when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details. It resembles how Amazon and Apple, by looking at data stored in e-reading devices and apps, can see how often books are opened and how far into a book readers get." Some publishers (mostly in Germany) are using the Jellybooks data to adjust marketing spending. Having companies read over your shoulder is probably inevitable but sales figures alone are not a good measure of a book's worth. And there are certainly privacy concerns with what's being measured by ebook publishers.
John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Popular Fiction (John Grisham, NY Times, 5-31-17) #2 of 8: DON’T — WRITE THE FIRST SCENE UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LAST
Justice Clearinghouse events (Justice Clearinghouse)

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story and video of Vonnegut on How to write a short story. (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings)

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Learn How to Write and Finish a Novel (Ginny Wiehardt, The Balance, 6-10-18) For beginners.
Links for fiction writers (Internet-Resources.com)
Literary devices, defined (LiteraryDevices.net)
Literary journals (Lit Line links)
Literary magazines (New Pages links)
Literati.net (an online community of readers and writers, specializing in promotion of published authors)
Literary journals (LitLine, a website for the indepenent literary community)
Literary Magazines, New Pages Guide to
Literati.net (Gary McAvoy). A community of readers and writers.
The Lost Giant of American Literature (Kathryn Schulz, American Archives, The New Yorker, 1-29-18) A major black novelist made a remarkable début. How did he disappear? William Melvin Kelley wrote about white people thinking about black people.

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The Man Who Made the Novel (Adelle Waldman, New Yorker, 5-16-16) Loving and loathing Samuel Richardson. "Skeptics of literary biography have long held that everything worth knowing about a novelist is evident in the work itself."
Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read (Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell, NY Times, 3-14-16) See the graphics on the percentage of readers who finished reading each chapter of three specific e-books:
---A successful novel (62 percent of readers finish the book),
---A not-so-successful novel (the readership declines quickly in the first 100 pages)
---A novel that had its marketing scaled back (because 90 percent of readers gave up after only five chapters).


More journalists and fiction writers are shifting to writing videogames (Stephany Nunneley, vg247, 11-19-10)
My Advice to Aspiring Authors (Hugh C. Howey's excellent advice, chiefly to fiction writers, is practical; his reasons for recommending self-publishing, very persuasive. Broadly: "The key to making it as a writer is to write a lot, write great stories, publish them yourself, spend more time writing, study the industry, act like a pro, network, be nice, invest in yourself and your craft, and be patient."
Mystery and Reversal: The Art of a Story’s Middle (Lee Martin, blog post 12-4-17)

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Napkin Fiction Project (Esquire) Esquire magazine sent paper napkins to dozens of writers, inviting them to write fiction on the napkins and send them back. Many did; they are archived and linked to here. Here's one participants story about getting caught up in the project: Esquire’s Napkin Project shows fiction really is delicious. (Nathan Mattise, In pursuit of the trivial), followed by The Esquire Napkin Fiction project saga finale. (Mattise, 7-28-08)

NaNoWritMo (National Novel Writing Month)NaNoWritMo (National Novel Writing Month)
---National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). An annual internet-based creative writing project, held in November. Participants set aside a month to write a novel as quickly as possible, giving "yourself permission to write without obsessing over quality." Proceeds go to the Office of Letters and Light to pay for the Young Writer's Program—a creative writing program that reaches 2,500 classrooms, 500 communities, and 200 libraries worldwide. Write 50,000 words in a month(November), submitting your words online (scrambled) periodically; nonfiction writers try this popular event to indulge their fantasy that they have a novel in them, and they often do! Whether it's publishable is another thing, but just writing the thing is a kick and gets the creative juices flowing. NaNo has a page of advice with suggestions for revising: I Wrote A Novel, Now What?, NaNo FAQs, and info about Script Frenzy, an April challenge to write 100 pages of original scripted material in 30 days (screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels all welcome).
---What NaNoWritMo is about
---NaNoWritMo described in 9 Handy Online Tools for Writers
Successfully published NaNoWritMo novels:
---The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill

---Cinder, book 1 of The Lunar Chronicles, which includes two more winners, Scarlet and Cress by the same author, Marissa Meyer.
--- The Compound by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, about a family locked away in an underground bunker, received the Bank Street Award for Best Children’s Book of the Year in 2009.
--- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
--- The God Patent by Ransom Stephens. The “tale is a science-versus-religion battle over a couple of patents that promise to unlock the secrets of the universe and turn the power of God into an ExxonMobil wet dream.”
--- The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood. Novelist Sam Wood cannot connect after the death of his daughter Franny and begins to waste away.
--- Livvie Owen Lived Here by Sarah Dooley, the story of an autistic 14-year-old
--- Losing Faith by Denise Jaden, a middle-school book in which a girl named Brie learns that a religious cult may have been behind the death of her sister Faith
---The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

--- Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart, a funny novel about a brainy and competitive 12-year-old who loves Jeopardy
---Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Part 1 of a series: teen vampire fiction (which started with a draft of this novel in 2006’s competition).
---Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart, the first book in the successful pre-teen Canterwood Crest series. When Sasha Silver and her horse, Charm, arrive on the campus of the elite Canterwood Crest Academy, Sasha knows that she's in trouble.
---Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. See her pep talk.
---Wool by Hugh Howey (part of his Wool trilogy)

A Newbie's Guide to Publishing (JA Konrath's blog)
New Yorker Fiction podcast A monthly reading and conversation with the New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman. A good way to hear writers talk about what works.
Nicole Krauss: on stealing from life as a livelihood (Financial Times, but apparently also on LitHub, 2-26-21) The author considers the advice given to her by Philip Roth: ‘Take it. If you can pick it up and carry it out of the room, it’s yours.’ About novel writing and Philip Roth.
No (Brian Doyle's essay on rejection letters, Kenyon Review, Spring 2008)
A Novel Journey (Maxi Bransdale) A day-by-day diary of the construction of a novel. From concept to bookshelf. Plus Comment and Reviews.
---Eight Questions About the Novella, Answered (Fred Meyer, Writers.com, 1-14-2020) "What distinguishes a novella from a novel or any other form is, fundamentally, word count. Word count for a novella is generally 20,000 to 50,000 words, although you can’t be exact about that. Here are some rough word length guidelines:

     7,500 words or fewer is a short story.

     7,500 words to 20,000 words is a novelette.

     20,000 to 50,000 words is a novella.

     50,000 to 80,000 words is a short novel.

     80,000 to 100,000 words or more is a full-length novel."

--- The novella: Stepping stone to success or waste of time? (Jack Smith, The Writer, 10-26-18) "A novella typically starts at about 20,000 words and tops out at 50,000, which is the minimum length for a short novel."

--- Some Notes on the Novella (Ian McEwan, New Yorker, 10-29-12) 'The great novella is Joyce’s “The Dead.” A simple binary structure (a party, a hotel room) supports the evocation of an entire social milieu (decorous and fractious by turns) with extraordinary warmth.'
---On Books: Visions and Revisions (Part 1, Alison Parker, on An American Editor, 8-3-16) Alison compares a children's novella, Sara Crewe, or, What Happened at Miss Minchin’s Boarding School , to the novel it became seventeen years later, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Between the novella and the novel, Burnett "was asked to turn the initial story into a play, which began its run a couple of years before she expanded her story into a novel." Parker uses the differences between the two works to bring the concept "show, not tell" to life for creative writing students.
---Short Story or Novella? What’s the Difference and Where to Publish Shorter Fiction (Writer's Relief, an author's submissions service)
---100 Must-Read Novellas (Theresa Preston, Book Riot, 12-20-16_)

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10 excellent storytelling tips for writers from How I Met Your Mother. (Katie Yee, LitHub, 9-17-21) Written for TV, but useful for novelists.1. Be really, really specific with dates and locations. (Know your timeline.)
The One Thing White Writers Get Away With, But Authors of Color Don't (Gracie Jin, Policymic) Gracie Jin asks why only white writers are assumed to be capable of writing about cultures not their own.
Online literary journals (LitLine)
On word counts and novel length (Colleen Lindsay, The Swivet, revised 2010)
On Writing, and Wasting Your Substance (Charles J. Shields, A Biographer's Notebook, 5-18-11). This is on Charles's Kurt Vonnegut blogsite, but it is really about whether novelists manage their creative energy best by socializing or by isolating themselves--and his focus is on David Markson, who did too much of one and then perhaps too much of the other).

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Pace--what keeps us reading (Laurence O'Bryan, crime & mystery writer)
Philip Roth Goes Home Again. Scott Raab's article for Esquire, based on an interview with the novelist in the town that provided the setting for so much of his fiction, is a Notable Narrative, as featured on Nieman Storyboard: Esquire goes home with Philip Roth (5-27-11)
Planning to Outline Your Novel? Don’t (NY Book Editors, Sept. 2013) Don’t plan. Write. Your only task is to create. The less you know before you start, the more you stand to uncover as you write. (Several good arguments for planning less, with fiction.)
Podcasting Your Novel: Publishing's Next Wave? (Hector Florin, Time 1-31-09)
Poewar ((John Hewitt, Writer's Resource Center), blogposts about freelancing, poetry, and fiction writing. See Poewar archives./a>
The Portable Writer's Conference: Your Guide to Getting Published (explaining the book publishing process) by Stephen Blake Mettee.

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Present tense or past tense in fiction?
The Pros and Cons of Present Tense (Peter Selgin on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-30-19) "Why is present tense so enduringly popular especially among younger writers?" Of all the disadvantages of the present tense, "perhaps the biggest is the inability to generate the sort of suspense that only comes with hindsight....Unlike the present tense, whatever else it does or doesn’t do, the past tense carries with it the assumption that there’s a story to be told, one that has already happened."
Present Tense Books (Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl) Should you write your novel in present tense?
Narrative Tense—Right Now or Way Back Then (Beth Hill, The Editor's Blog, 1-31-12) "The present tense is often associated with literary fiction, short stories, students in writing programs and workshops, and first novels. The past tense is used in most genre novels. Since the past tense is familiar to readers, readers don't have to adjust when they begin a story written using past tense."
Past Tense or Present Tense: Which is Best? (Novel Writing Help) Past tense is invisible and is also more flexible. "In past tense, you can use all three techniques – real time, skipping time altogether and fast-forwarding through time. In present tense, you’re limited to the first two techniques – real time and skipping time altogether. You can’t fast-forward through time because, like I said, the present tense sounds all wrong if you try to speed it up…"
The Pros and Cons of Writing a Novel in Present Tense (David Jauss, Writer's Digest, 3-25-14) A helpful excerpt from On Writing Fiction: Rethinking conventional wisdom about the craft.

Promotion for your speculative novel (Lida Quillen)
Protagonize (former online community devoted to collaborative, interactive fiction, especially addventure--yes, that's the spelling--and, by the way, Ficlets is closing)
Punctuation in novels (a graphic look at variations in punctuation patterns over time and various novelists)
Publishing a Novel, as Explained to Aliens (Michael Bourne, The Millions, 9-14-17) If you’ve ever wondered how a novel gets made, from the first glimmerings in the author’s imagination to what readers say about it in their book clubs, Clayton Childress’s Under the Cover is the book for you. (Under the Cover: The Creation, Production, and Reception of a Novel) "On the one hand, Childress has given us a deeply reported insider’s look at how the sausage gets made in contemporary publishing. On the other hand, he has built such high walls of academic verbiage and doctrinal framing around his work that only a few hardy souls outside his area of specialty will ever succeed in climbing them." "amid all the jargon, Childress nails the great secret of publishing, which is that it is a business fueled by special brand of infectious enthusiasm."

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Random Name Generator (English first and last names based on the database of the US Census). Aidas Klimas's Random Name Generator. And then there is ad-centered Behind the Name Random Name Generator which generates names in other languages, plus ads.
A reader's advice to writers: A word to the novelist on how to write better books by Laura Miller (Salon.com, 2-23-10). For example: "There's a reason why Nick Carraway is the narrator of "The Great Gatsby" while Gatsby himself is the protagonist. Desire is the engine that drives both life and narrative." And: "When you hear someone complain that 'nothing happens' in a work of fiction, it's often because the central character doesn't drive the action."
The Reality of a Times Bestseller (Lynn Viehl's frank and fantasy-destroying tale of what happened when her Darkyn novel, Twilight Fall, made the NY Times top 20 mass market bestseller list), followed up by More on the Reality of a Times Bestseller (9-6-09). For more on the making of bestsellers, see All about bestsellers (tips, facts, and stories) (Writers and Editors)
Renaissance (Maggie Pierce Secara's delightful site, rich in information and material about the Elizabethan world, with designer Paula Katherine Marmor)
The Right to Write (Roxana Robinson, Opinion, NY Times, 6-28-14) Who owns the story, the person who lives it or the person who writes it? The military is famously proprietary about war writing: they’ve earned the right to their experience, just as African-Americans have, and everyone else, for that matter. But does that mean only the members of a group can tell its stories? How far does ownership go?

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• Self-help and highbrow fiction. Highbrows and self-helpers: How did self-help shape the minds of Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway? (Beth Blum, Aeon, 1-22-2020) Woolf loathed it but it spurred her on. Hemingway drew ideas of manliness from it. Self-help haunted the modernist imagination. An essay by the author of The Self-Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature

Sex scenes. Never mind the bad sex award – where's the good sex in fiction? , a response to the Bad Sex Awards (Literary Review)
A Short Defense of Literary Excess (Ben Masters, Opinionator, NY times, 10-15-12). Read that, and compare with Writing with Miles Davis (Aaron Gilbreath, Opinionator NY Times 10-6-12, on the beauties of brevity)
The Sideways Publishing Saga -- Part I: Rejection by Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, on Huffington Post, 1-21-12). Followed by Part II: Part II: Exultation (2-3-12) and Part III: Whiplash; Dismay! (2-8-12). Also, see the movie Sideways.
A Simple Way to Create Suspense (Lee Child, Opinionator, NY Times, 12-8-12). This principle applies whether you are writing fiction or narrative nonfiction.
Some Notes on the Novella (Ian McEwan, New Yorker, 10-29-12) 'The great novella is Joyce’s “The Dead.” A simple binary structure (a party, a hotel room) supports the evocation of an entire social milieu (decorous and fractious by turns) with extraordinary warmth.'
Some famous first novels (John Kremer, BookMarket.com).
The Stiletto Gang (blog in which mystery writers Evelyn David, Marilyn Meredith, Maggie Barbieri, Rachel Brady, Misa Ramirez, Susan McBride and guests bring mystery, humor, and high heels to the world)
Storycraft for Novelists and Their Editors: Resources to Help Authors Get It Right (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 4-8-19)
Story Guild Provides Sounding Board for Budding Writers (Pamela Brill, PW, 12-12-18) "Novice middle grade and young adult novelists looking to share their work and gain feedback from fellow writers have a new opportunity to consider. Enter Story Guild, a national program in which participants read from their unsubmitted novels and discuss their writing with their peers and a host author."

Symbolism--what writers think:
Document: The Symbolism Survey (Sarah Funke Butler, Paris Review Daily, 12-5-11). "In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?" He got 75 responses. This story features comments from ack Kerouac, Ayn Rand, Ralph Ellison, Ray Bradbury, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer. Why did they respond to the questionnaire? Writes McAllister: “The conclusion I came to was that nobody had asked them. New Criticism was about the scholars and the text; writers were cut out of the equation. Scholars would talk about symbolism in writing, but no one had asked the writers.” In the comments section, Paul A. Rose, Jr. wrote: "...I have to agree with Saul Bellow, and further say that it seems that at some point, those who determine curriculum decided that there wasn’t enough value in teaching English literature for the love of the literature itself, but it must also serve some ‘social’ purpose for it to merit being a part of the education system, and so social commentary and symbolism are now sought with abandon, rather than just enjoying a damn good story." I learned of this article and survey through From Jack Kerouac to Ayn Rand: Iconic Writers on Symbolism, 1963 (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, 12-12-11)
The Search for Symbols, a Writer Warns, Misses All the Fun and Fact of the Story (Saul Bellow, New York Times, 2-15-59)

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Take Five: Donald Maass on His New Book, “Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling” (interview on Writer Unboxed)
Take novels seriously, urge poverty experts (University of Manchester.11-6-08) Best sellers can give powerful insights into aspects of poverty that are overlooked by scholars, government advisors and pundits, according to a team of researchers from the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics. “While fiction may not always show a set of presentable research findings, it does not compromise on complexity, politics or readability in the way that academic literature sometimes does. And fiction often reaches a much larger and diverse audience than academic work and may therefore be more influential in shaping public knowledge and understanding of development issues.”
Teaching “Madame Bovary” (Roxana Robinson, New Yorker, 11-5-17)
The 10 Highest-Paid Authors (Dirk Smillie, Forbes, 8-19-10). By Smillie's account the top 10 earning authors all write fiction: James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer,Stephen King, Ken Follett, Danielle Steel, Dean Koontz, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, J.K. Rowling--includes income from books, film rights, television, gaming deals, etc.
Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, the Guardian asked several authors for their personal dos and don'ts. Read what Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, and AL Kennedy (part 1)and Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson (part 2) have to say.
Thinking Fiction: Lazy Writing, Part 1 — Something to Combat, but Sometimes Appreciate (Carolyn Haley, An American Editor, 2-15-19) It's okay for a writer to be lazy in some areas on a first draft, when you are still mapping out the story and perhaps struggling to flesh it out, but next drafts call for revision--looking out for is "lazy prose" -- for example, overusing vague adjectives like "large," when a more precise adjective is called for.

This Handy Chart Automatically Generates a Pitch for Your New Novel (Electric Lit, 3-28-18) Humor. Take one from Column A, one from Column B, etc.
This is NOT Feminine Tosh: Writing Meaningful Fiction. Listen to three novelists--Meg Waite Clayton, Carleen Brice, and Ellen Sussman--discuss writing and publishing fiction of substance (She Writes Radio)
3 Essential Elements of a Book's First Page (Writer's Relief staff, Huff Post, 10-21-12)

Too Much Information: Why Writers Should Conceal Their Research (Drew Chial)
Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs, Updated (BestCollegesOnline.com, with blogs for aspiring and emerging writers, established writers, on improving your craft, on grammar and editing, getting published, fiction, genre fiction, and poetry).
Truth vs. Fiction, From Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury, Iconic Writers on. (Maria Popova, The Atlantic, courtesy of Brain Pickings, 1-27-12) What a the literary greats can teach us about the fine points of make-believe. Sample quotations, from a collection of them:
---"Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie." ~ Stephen King in On Writing
---"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." ~ Mark Twain in Following the Equator
---"The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt in The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt

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We Asked 7 Lawyers to Untangle the Broadway Fight Over ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (Michael Paulson and Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 3-23-18) Harper Lee was a literary celebrity. Aaron Sorkin is a screenwriting superstar. And now the two — by proxy — are locked in a battle over who should shape the content in Mr. Sorkin’s stage adaptation of Ms. Lee’s famous novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Seven lawyers chime in, including the Guild’s Cheryl Davis, on how to determine whether a script adaptation crosses the line of what is permissible by deviating from the “spirit” of the original novel.
What Science Journalism Taught Me About Writing Fiction (Sara Goudarzi, LitHub, on Shifting Gears Between Fact and Fiction, 2-14-22) "Economical writing in journalism, due to space limitations in a publication, is a necessity. In novel writing, my economical writing meant that I often got to the point too fast with too few words. Learning to slow down—to allow myself more words to create a mood, or capture a feeling—took effort, and a switch in thinking."
Why Pursue Traditional Publishing? (Are There Enough Good Reasons?) (Kristen Tsetsi, on Jane Friedman, 11-20-17) All the novels languishing for want of a traditional publisher's editor wanting to publish them.
Why Write When the World Is on Fire? (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-16-22) In times of sickness, cultural upheaval, and real existential threats, perhaps stories matter more than ever.
Willa Cather, Pioneer (Jane Smiley, Paris Review, 2-27-18)
Words, and Barry Hannah, the Guy Who Taught Me to Love Them (Marian Palaia, Glimmer Train)
Write Through It: On Writing, Editing, and How to Keep Going. Writer-editor-proofreader Susanna J. Sturgis's excellent blog on the process; this selection: "Every Damn Day." Worth exploring, for both fiction writers and editors/proofreaders. Start with Sturgis's Laws.
Writer Races to Victory From Way Off the Pace. Novelist Jaimy Gordon was a long shot for the National Book Award for fiction, with her novel Lord of Misrule, which won. "To write a novel that was even remotely commercial...she had to get out of Providence, where even to think of such a thing was considered a sell out..." Janet Maslin describes the novel as "so assured, exotic and uncategorizable, with such an unlikely provenance, that it arrives as an incontrovertible winner, a bona fide bolt from the blue."

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Writers on Writing (a complete archive of the Writers on Writing column in the New York Times, a series in which writers explored literary themes)
Writers on Writing (Fiction Writers Review)
Writer Unboxed (a collaborative site, full of advice and views on the writing of genre fiction)
Writing Advice Database (excellent brief articles by former star agent Nathan Bransford on various aspects of how to write fiction)
Writing a Full-Length Book When You Have a Full-Time Life (Felicia C. Sullivan, Medium, 7-3-18) Need a plan? Maybe this article will help.
Writing Excuses. Super website on writing fiction, with a series of short podcasts (audio recordings, "Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart.") by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells on the topic of writing. Plus transcripts. Not recommended if you are distractable. The title "Writing Excuses" is misleading. This site is packed with practical podcasts and transcripts, with tips about marketing, craft, business, plot, etc. The range is enormous and you'll find sort clips and pieces archived under 10 seasons. Spend a little time here and bookmark bits to come back to. See Season indexes for transcripts of the podcasts (to read) and Archives (to listen). Great sharing in the discussions with each show.
A Writing Lesson from Ursula K. Le Guin (LitHub). Chapter 1, on the "sound" of writing, from Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story
Writing the Breakout Novel (Ingrid Sundberg, "prepublished" YA author, reporting on agent Sarah Davies' recipes for success with fiction)
Writing Tips (Kathryn Lance)

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TVTropes. A wiki/catalog of the tricks of the trade for writing fiction. "Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations."
25 Writing Tips From Famous Writers (Freewrite, 5-9-18)
Unfilmable books
---11 Famous Books That Have Proven Impossible to Film (Jannifer M. Wood, Mental Floss, 11-2-18)
---Is There Such A Thing As A Gloriously Unfilmable Book? (Charlie Jane Anders, io9, 7-23-09)
---The Most Difficult Books to Make Into Movies (James Smith, Daily Lounge)

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The Very Rich Indie Writer. Eli James, on the Novelr blog (about reading, writing and publishing Internet fiction), lists monthly sales figures for Amanda Hocking and other Internet novelists, to show that you don't have to be traditionally published and don't have to be an A-list famous to sell a lot of e-books.
Victoria Strauss: The short and the long official bios of the fantasy writer and co-founder with Ann Crispin of Writer Beware, the "publishing industry watchdog group that provides information and warnings about the many scams and schemes that threaten writers."
Violent Ends (Kim Brooks, Glimmer Train) "Violence can be] too sanitized, too tamed into a generic, pre-packaged mold, and so it can’t yield the kind of interesting questions or meditations readers crave, and writers must eventually confront."
Virginia Quarterly Review (national literary journal)
Watch Robert Olen Butler create a short story in real time (YouTube video, Inside Creative Writing: Episode 1). More such videos show up along right side of page.
Web del Sol, a community and portal for the literary world, supported by Algonkian Writer Conferences, hosts several online literary journals, book reviews, and writer blogs
Your Brain on Fiction (Annie Murphy Paul, NY Times Book Review, 3-17-12) "What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive....The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated."
Your Screenplay Is Probably Not a Novel (Kate McKean, 12-17-19) It's hard to make a thing out of a thing.

"My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel - it is, above all, to make you see. That - and no more, and it is everything."
~ Joseph Conrad, preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus

"I've never thought about myself in terms of a career. ... I don't have a career, I have a typewriter."
~ Don DeLillo

"When I became an adult I put away childish things, including the fear of seeming childish and the desire to be very grown-up." ~ C. S. Lewis

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