Archive for the 'Book Talk' Category

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good [...]

Better than They Know Themselves

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

~ Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

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Most readers and writers agree: the most memorable part of a story is usually not the plot, but the characters. It follows that as writers, we need to know our characters very well. And if we do our jobs, by the end of the book the reader will know our characters very well, too.

But something I haven’t [...]

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Flog the first page of this bestselling author’s newest novel. Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre—there are folks who [...]

Drawing from Real Life in Fiction

Unlike many people I know, I’ve never wanted to write the story of my life. And I’ve come to belatedly believe that this lack of autobiographic desire on my part has affected my fiction writing, and not necessarily for the best.

I say “belatedly” because I’ve been writing fiction for close to 15 years, but only a few years ago did I start to readjust what I now see as a rather closed and negative mindset I’d been maintaining.

In the past, [...]

The Perplexing Problem of Romance

I spent much of the winter and spring writing a non-fiction project, Writing Romantic Fiction, which will be published in November by Hachette/Macmillan. I was approached to do the project some time ago, and agreed to do it because it seemed like it would be a good exercise for me, and because it’s good to have something to offer at workshops.

What I didn’t realize is how much soul-searching it would trigger, both about process and how it works and why [...]

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Storytelling Checklist

While it’s not a requirement that all of these 6 storytelling ingredients be on the first page, I think writers [...]

Because Size Matters: McKee’s Four Tips on Writing a Big Story

You know how certain types of feedback get under your skin like road rash, so that months or years later the grit is still working its way to the surface? Well, eons ago, as she contemplated a novel I’d set in my province, a critique partner sent me metaphorically skidding on the asphalt in a pair of Daisy Dukes.

The comment she dropped  which I found so distressing? “I think this would appeal to readers outside of Canada.” (Meaning, as I [...]

Why Your Book Deal Is Just the First Step

Photo by Jeff Noble

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, authors of Your Perfect Life (Washington Square Press) have been best friends for twenty-five years and survived high school and college together. They’ve written the story of two childhood best friends  who wake up the morning after their twentieth high school reunion to discover that they’ve switched bodies and need to figure out how to navigate their altered realities.

Says New York Times best-selling author Sarah Jio:

I loved this from the [...]

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Storytelling Checklist

While it’s not a requirement that all of these 6 storytelling ingredients be on the first page, I think writers [...]

The Woman Behind Struck By Genius

Water ripple by Jason Padgett

Today we’re excited to welcome author Maureen Seaberg to Writer Unboxed! Maureen’s book Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel, co-written by Jason Padgett, is the Spring’s lead title for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It also received a Kirkus Star and is one of Apple’s 20 Best Books for April.

Maureen is an expert synesthesia blogger for Psychology Today—and she herself has several forms of synesthesia. Maureen also recently tested DNA positive for another [...]

Flog a Pro: would you turn this bestselling author’s first page?

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?

Storytelling Checklist

While it’s not a requirement that all of these 6 storytelling ingredients be on the first page, I think writers [...]

In Praise of Paper Books

I recently started rereading a book I bought many years ago – one volume of an eight volume collected set of The Spectator, a London daily periodical from the early 18th century.  William Addison and Joseph Steele wrote most of the The Spectator’s 2500-word, witty and wise essays on serious topics of social value.  A typical piece warns against the dangers of using “party lying” (i.e. propaganda) to advance a political cause.  Another is an extended meditation on eternity.  Several [...]