Tag Archive 'Jan OHara'

Should You Set Limits with Your Readers?

A few years ago, it seemed like you couldn’t swing a deceased feline without hitting an author in the grip of a meltdown. Even if the conflict was minor, once it became public, the internet’s retribution often turned malignant. Virtual mobs would descend upon the author’s blog, clotting the comment section with hostility. Their fiction […]

Minimalism When Writing Fiction

On an evening in July 2014, along with my brother and another hundred perspiring attendees, I crowded into one of the few remaining indie bookstores in my hometown. We weren’t there for a rock star novelist, I’m sorry to say, but rather for two non-fiction writers. I’d been reading their blog for a few months […]

Lessons from the UnCon: I Surrender. I’m Finally Ready to Be Naked

If you attended the inaugural UnCon in Salem, this post is an attempt to recreate a bit of its inherent magic. If you couldn’t attend, this is one explanation of why you’ll read reviews like this paraphrased quote: “What have you people done to me? I’m forever changed and so is my writing.”  Several decades […]

Deconstructing Micro-Tension

If you had to guess, what portion of the hundred-thousand-mile journey to basic fiction-writing competence would belong to the pursuit and mastery of micro-tension? Ten percent? Thirty? I personally don’t have a clue, yet I’ve been persuaded of its necessity since first being introduced to the concept by WU’s Donald Maass. Accordingly, I’ve done my […]

Wanted: Grim Reaper As Writing Coach

Last month, through pure serendipity, I stumbled across an intellectual exercise which I’d like to recommend to all my fellow writers.  I believe it will be of particular benefit to those of you who  a) are overwhelmed with life and yearn for a reset button b) wish to clear away the cobwebs of smugness and […]

C-c-considering Cadence: Understanding One Quality of Voice

The Oxford Dictionary defines cadence as “a modulation or inflection of the voice, a rhythmical effect in written text, a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase or sentence” or simply as “rhythm”. For purposes of discussion today, I have a brief illustration of how it can affect reader experience. Consider the following […]

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 […]

All Hail Dilemmas: Why Your Characters Need to Make Tough Choices

Last month I began a series on story lessons learned or refined during my multi-day Story seminar with Robert McKee. (It was fantastic. If you get a chance to attend, I highly recommend it.) The first post was about cultivating the gap between reality and expectation, or Turning Points. This month, I wanted to talk […]

Cultivate the Gap and Watch Your Readers’ Eyebrows Bounce

When my youngest was a wee lad, there was a period when I knew I was failing him as a parent. Day after day, from the moment I woke him up to take him to the sitter’s until I tucked him into bed (for the last time), we were locked in one power struggle after […]

There Are No Mwuahaha Villains in the Artistic Life

You know that if two artists are married, only one is going to be successful. And in your family, it’s going to be [your husband]. So why don’t you just understand that and look after the house and the kids?* If these words were directed at you, would you give up? What if they came […]

Songs on Surviving the Midlist: from Opera Singer, Circus Performer & Novelist, Gretchen McNeil

When I learned the theme for this month was “a peek behind the publishing curtain”, it was an easy decision to invite today’s guest for an interview. For as long as I’ve known her, Gretchen McNeil has been a model of grace and resilience under pressure; a woman who feels passionately and has a big […]

To the Disconsolate Writer Who Hates Her Pace

From an anonymous email: Dear Jan: I’ve seen you describe yourself as a slow writer. I am one also, and it makes me discouraged to the point I’ve considered quitting. Do you have any advice? Ah, yes. Speed-of-sloth is the precise phrase I use, and while at one point it was a way of laughing […]