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3 books to help you become a better writer in 2020

redlandsdailyfacts.com – Sunday December 15, 2019

The New Year will soon be upon us and as this is seen as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation, many people use the New Year to embark on a journey of self-improvement and self-reflection. Many people take this time to pick up a new hobby, create and maintain better habits, and maybe improve one’s lot in life.

One skill that I personally try to improve upon is writing. Writing is a necessary skill and a refresher course on writing is apt to keep those skills sharp. It’s also helpful so that in the middle of an important writing session, you don’t have to stop and look up whether it’s light bulb or light-bulb (lightbulb), or where to put the apostrophe in the plural of Adams ( … this one maybe look up).

Reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing, and reading a book about improving writing should improve things even more so. Like three fold. (This is about improving writing, not math skills. That’s for next time.)

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In writing, you can break the rules — but only if it works

startribune.com – Saturday December 14, 2019

'Tis the season … so here's some unashamed regifting: a year-end roundup, featuring an all-star team whose members have appeared in these columns.

First, my Uncle Ollie, who sent me his copy of the New Yorker every week after he read it. If you let the quality of that magazine's writing and editing wash over you and if you follow its example, your writing will grow stronger.

Second, my mother, who taught me to read when I was 4, sounding out letters and words on a ketchup label. You can give your kids and grandkids the same gift.

Third, my sixth-grade English teacher, Miss Moore, who taught us to diagram a sentence, giving us a keen sense of the structure of language. Back to her later.

Fourth, my college English professor, John Finch, who taught us to create an outline before starting to write. The benefit: All your thinking goes into the outline; when you start to write, just follow the outline.

Fifth, the playwright August Wilson, who gave us this advice: "The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is."

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The naked truth: how to write a memoir

theguardian.com – Saturday December 14, 2019

Some memoirists send drafts of their work to loved ones, or even not-so-loved ones, and where there’s a response alter their writing as a result. Others see no need for consultation. Either way, when writing about your own life, it’s important to get the monkeys off your shoulder – to be uninhibited by the possible fallout of your words. You can worry about other people later, when you’re editing. In mid-flow, you need the illusion of privacy, not to be anticipating people’s reactions (which are in any case unpredictable). Most self-censorship is cowardly. In Elizabeth’s Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, the writing tutor Sarah says: “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write … remember this: you’re not doing it right.”

Everyone has a book in them, it’s said, but as Martin Amis noted in his memoir Experience (2000), what everyone seems to have in them “is not a novel but a memoir … We are all writing it or at any rate talking it: the memoir, the apologia, the CV, the cri de coeur.” Democracy itself may be under threat but the democratisation of the memoir keeps advancing. What was once a geriatric, self-satisfied genre – politicians, generals and film stars looking back fondly on long careers – is now open to anyone with a story to tell. And the genre has reinvented itself to take diverse forms: lyric essay, creative non-fiction, confessional prose-poem and so on. You don’t have to be famous to write a memoir. And it doesn’t have to be cradle-to-grave: a slice of life, or collage of fragments, can be enough.

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Born of Friendship, the Book Group Is Making Its Mark as an Agency

publishersweekly.com – Saturday December 14, 2019

Walking into the offices of the Book Group, housed in a small (by Manhattan standards) building on West 20th Street, one is greeted by the standard design trappings of literary agencies. Posters of book jackets line the walls and dozens upon dozens of books sit on shelves hanging above desks in cubicles and offices.

In the conference room, where the books of clients sit spine out on shelves that stretch from hip level to the ceiling, the vibe is unusually positive. Those who work in publishing can tend toward glass-half-empty. The eight women who work at Book Group (four principals, one senior agent, one agent, and two assistants) seem different. It feels a bit like stepping onto the set of a TV show about book publishing—one cast by the creators of Friends, featuring characters written by Aaron Sorkin.

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10 top tips for teaching creative writing

tes.com – Thursday December 12, 2019

Teaching creative writing is one of my favourite things. I love the imaginative and weird ideas pupils come up with. But it’s hard, no doubt about that, and students can struggle to trust their creativity.

Teaching creative writing

So, here are my 10 tips for creative essays:

1. Get story ideas from the world around you

Read the paper to see what weird things are going on. Listen to strangers’ conversations and steal them. If you love history, write historical fiction. If you love science, write about the moon. Make it your own.

2. There are no rules here

Creative writing is personal and individual. Nobody should tell anybody what they can or can’t do. Having said that, the following suggestions are tried and tested. They will give most stories a bit of a boost.

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Vicarious travels: On the travel writing genre

mancunion.com – Saturday December 7, 2019

Upon arriving at Waterstones there is one section we tend to flock to: fiction. We crave the idea of losing ourselves in others’ stories, travelling into our imagination. Whilst I’m an aficionado for the fictional, in recent months I’ve come across a new genre that allows us to explore the amazing and varied world we live in and follow the stories of real people’s adventures and experiences, of people’s subjective and varying experiences when travelling across the globe.

I’m now a strong advocate for the modern travel genre, and have a few recommendations for reading over the winter break.

Travel writing encompasses so many styles and sub-genres – the common characteristic is simply to give a new perspective on life, through stories of new places and cultures. It isn’t simply recommendations of where to go and what to see, like promotional travel magazines, but rather tales of real people going out and seeing the world.

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Point of View Quickly Brings a Story to Life

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Wednesday December 4, 2019

Intimacy with characters will hook your readers

A close point of view, whether first person or third, will supply the inner meaning to a story. Such an intimate point of view brings to any piece of fiction insight, warmth, understandable human foibles, and an empathetic reader attraction to the character. This “limited” point of view facilitates a direct transmission of emotion. Without such a specific character perspective, all the readers have to enlighten them is outer description—although externals can, of course, go a long way to pointing to feeling and shoring up emotional declarations.

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Why are great women writers still adopting male pseudonyms?

stylist.co.uk – Friday November 22, 2019

There are some interesting things you may or may not know about Nuneaton-born writer, George Eliot. In 2015, her landmark book, Middlemarch (1872), topped a BBC poll of the 100 greatest British novels and it’s been cited as one of the finest works ever written by such diverse writers as Virginia Woolf and Martin Amis. 

But as well as her literary prowess, Eliot was also steeped in scandal. First she was ostracised by polite society for living openly with a married man, George Lewes. And then, after his death, her reputation took a further tumble when she married a man 20 years her junior only for him to attempt suicide on their honeymoon balcony in Venice.

To put it succinctly, the woman born Mary Ann or Marian Evans in 1819 is one of Britain’s greatest writers, having also written the stone-cold classics Adam Bede (1859), The Mill On The Floss (1860) and Silas Marner (1861) to name just a few. Yet Eliot remains something of an enigma.

In part, it’s thanks to her image as a slightly dour Victorian writer (her novels fell out of favour in the early 20th century only to be reappraised in the 1950s), but also, and more importantly, because of her male pen name. But just why did she feel the need to write under this false identity?

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How do you write a novel? A draft in time saves nine

irishtimes.com – Thursday November 14, 2019

I’m often asked about the best way to write a novel’s first draft, and thank God for that, for otherwise I’d have no social life at all.

For some reason it generally seems to happen when I discover myself at the bottom of Dawson Street around lunchtime, waiting to cross over to the Trinity side.

“I say, Mr Burke!” bawls some aspiring scribe who, having recently perambulated around from College Green, has mistaken me for that prime hunk of literary boulevardier, Edmund Burke. “How does one go about writing a novel-length story?”

“Well,” I bawl back, which usually precipitates something of a conversational longueur, it being my accoster’s expectation that I have deployed same as a precursor to embarking on lengthy disquisition, whereas my advice in the matter of writing novel-length stories is as brief as it is simple, ie, that if they must be written at all, then they really ought to be written well.

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Five Things To Keep in Mind When Writing A Fantasy Series

winteriscoming.net – Wednesday November 13, 2019

Writing a fantasy series can feel a lot like going on a really long road trip. No matter how prepared you think you are, you’re probably still going to get lost a zillion times and realize that you didn’t pack half the things you need. But none of that will matter because you’ll have all kinds of adventures along the journey!

Or … your characters will at least.

As the author? You’re mostly going to consume a lot of caffeine.

I’ll be honest: I had no idea how to write a book when I first got the idea for Keeper of the Lost Cities. And I knew right away that the story would need to be told throughout the course of a series, so it felt extra daunting. I tried studying the craft of writing, but it was all a bit too abstract to be useful for me. What helped me so much more was devouring as many fantasy series as I could get my hands on—which brings me to the first thing to keep in mind if you’re writing a fantasy series.

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