Category Archives: Writing Challenges

Every author has a hard time with something -specific scenes or characters, writer’s block, etc. See what others suggest to overcome writing challenges.

Bouchercon 2014 : Meet Alibi Editor Dana Edwin Isaacson

Posted by November 10th, 2014

Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach kicks off November 13th in Long Beach, California. Bouchercon is one of the world’s largest crime fiction conventions. Dana Edwin Isaacson, Senior Editor at Alibi, shares what he his most looking forward to at Bouchercon.

ALIBI editor Bouchercon 2014Janet Umenta: What are you most looking forward to at Bouchercon 2014?

Dana Edwin Isaacson: During the e-publishing forum on Thursday, our Alibi authors are doing a virtual eBook signing, using our partner Autography. Interested mystery readers can meet our authors at the signings, get a personal inscription or photograph with the author, and then go and download their personalized eBook. As I’ve yet to see this incredibly cool innovation in action, I’m eager to get my own personalized eBooks!

I’m also excited to be meeting in person for the first time a few of our Alibi authors. When editing a novel, you develop an intimate relationship with the author’s viewpoint. It’s fascinating to meet in person someone whom you feel you already know.

JU:  What new trends do you see in the mystery and thriller genres?

DEI: Cozies are selling well. In online strategies, novels with a female protagonist find it easier to win readers.  Also, there seems to be an uptick of medical thrillers. Continue reading

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Doodling Prompts for Easy Character Development! By Lisa Currie

Posted by October 27th, 2014

ME, YOU, US by Lisa CurriePrepping for NaNoWriMo 2014? Fleshing out characters for your novel-in-progress or novel-to-be? Today we offer fun doodling prompts for character development from author and master doodler Lisa Currie, whose new book ME, YOU, US is just out from Perigee Books. You can download and print these exclusive prompts by clicking on the hyperlinked words in the text below. Share yours with us on social media! (And check out the examples I did for the MC in my NaNo project below!)

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U.S. Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, did it. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did it. So did Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Bill Gates, Winston Churchill, Larry David, and Vidal Sassoon. Famous authors throughout the ages have done it, including Vladimir Nabokov, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Keats, Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. They were doodlers, all of them. Good thing, too, because recent studies* have shown that doodling unleashes the power of the creative mind. Think of it as creating off-road trails between neurons. Continue reading

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How to Publish Your Novel in Thirty Simple Steps! – By Andrea Dunlop

Posted by October 22nd, 2014

Andrea Dunlop, THE SOJOURNAbout a month ago, I received a call I felt like I’d been waiting for my whole life: a publisher was making an offer on my book. It was the middle of the day, and I was at work, so as soon as I got off the phone, I burst out of my office door and announced that Atria was buying my book. Cheers, hugs, and champagne followed (have I mentioned how awesome my co-workers are?). I called my mom, my dad, and my boyfriend. I cried tears of joy, relief, and sheer exhaustion. The moment itself was a lot like I’d dreamed it would be. And I’d had plenty of time to dream since, like so many of us, I’d wanted to be a writer most of my life.

But while the big moment was everything I’d hoped for, the path that got me to that moment was decidedly not. What follows is my step-by-step guide to publication, although I am not sure it is a guide anyone will want to follow. (Unless you really prefer twisting trails to straight roads.) Continue reading

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Preparing for NaNoWriMo – The Five-Line Outline by Julie Artz

Posted by October 21st, 2014

Preparing for NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo doesn’t leave much room for preparation. Try the following five-line outline method to help you survive the insanity that is NaNoWriMo without completely flying by the seat of your pants. 
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Step One: Create your logline

The first line of the outline is the logline. It covers the main character, what s/he wants (goal), what stands in his or her way (obstacles), and what will happen if s/he doesn’t reach her goal (stakes). Two great articles to guide you are Writing a Killer Logline and Writing Killer Loglines.

Here’s the logline from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project:

When lightning fries the village well pumps, Elías must redeem himself in the eyes of both Elders and family by journeying through the ruins of Andalucía to find help before their water supply runs out.

Writing this summary of your story before you begin will help focus your idea enough to get started. Don’t worry if you tweak it as you work—this logline has been through multiple revisions in the past year! Continue reading

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7 Things You Need to Know to Write the Best Title for Your Book by Keith Ogorek

Posted by September 17th, 2014

Your book title is your first marketing decision

Choosing a title for your book is certainly a creative decision, but it is also your first marketing decision because your book title can greatly help or hinder the sale of your book. While most authors usually have a title in mind when they first start writing their manuscript,  it is worth considering the following tips before you select a final title for your book.

Short can be sweet . . . and memorable

Best title for your book Think about the book titles you remember. I suspect many have short titles. Try to come up with a title for your book that has no more than four or five words at most. For whatever reason, it seems like a lot of titles have three words in them. The Hunger Games and The Tipping Point are examples. Keep that in mind as you craft your title.

Avoid words that are obscure, hard to pronounce, or spell

Sometimes in an attempt to be provocative authors will choose words that are unusual in an attempt to standout. Don’t be tempted. Obscure words are great for scoring points in Scrabble, but for book titles. Continue reading

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Assistant Editor Michelle Meade on the Editorial Process

Posted by September 9th, 2014

“Never feel that your book is finished before you get started in the editorial process.” Michelle Mead, now Assistant Editor at MIRA Books, an imprint of Harlequin, gives advice to new authors starting the editorial process.

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David Busis: What PREP Means To Me as a Writer

Posted by August 28th, 2014

Labor Day weekend always reminds me of one of my favorite books, PREP, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I read it obsessively over a Labor Day weekend many summers ago, barely doing anything else until I’d finished it. In graduate school, I met a writer named David Busis, and when he told me how much he loved the book, too, I knew that we’d be friends. In admiring the same book, we spoke something of the same language. When the two of us had a chance to take a writing workshop with the author, Curtis Sittenfeld, we were like giddy children all semester. Not only is Curtis a fantastic novelist, she’s also a great writing teacher, generous with her time and insights.

PREP on RandomHouse.comI asked David, who recently became a Book Country member, to write a blog post for us about what PREP means to him as a writer.

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When I was teaching at a prep school, I asked the head of the English department if he liked Curtis Sittenfeld’s PREP. He complained that Lee, the main character, never changes. Actually, Lee grows up, but you can only measure the change by triangulating between yourself, the high school protagonist, and the adult narrator.

Like Lee, I experienced adolescence as a maelstrom of desire, a time when the most pedestrian feelings of rejection and loneliness sometimes seemed poetic and noble because of their intensity. Most of the things I wanted—a school prize, a girl, an invitation—seem unimportant, though they felt more urgent than almost anything else has since. I love the book for reminding me of that urgency. Continue reading

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Feedback on THE KINGS OF CARNIN: Rise of Ari by Dan Croutch

Posted by July 23rd, 2014

THE KINGS OF CARNINDan Croutch has been a Book Country member since finding us during NaNoWriMo 2013. Always a helpful and supportive community member, Dan can often be found on the Book Country discussion boards or chatting with us on Twitter.

In April I wrote to all of the Book Country newsletter subscribers that I would read anyone’s book who wanted me to. The only catch was that the member had to have done a significant revision and reuploaded a new draft for me to read. Dan took me up on my feedback offer for his High/Epic Fantasy novel THE KINGS OF CARNIN: Rise of Ari.

THE KINGS OF CARNIN stars a young blacksmith named Ari. The son of the king’s foremost weapons maker, Ari is granted an audience with the king after his father’s death. During this meeting, he’s compelled to fight an emissary named Raden to the death. Unexpectedly defeating Raden means that Ari is transformed from a civilian artisan to a commander in the army overnight.

What’s working:

Dan’s prose is varied and flows easily–this was my favorite part about reading THE KINGS OF CARNIN. You can tell he is taking time to begin his sentences in different places, crafting each paragraph so that it avoids repetition and redundancy.

I am appreciative of the straightforwardness of KINGS OF CARNIN. It’s good old-fashioned storytelling that doesn’t confuse or alienate the reader. The linear way he has structured his book is appealing and will be accessible to readers of all ages. Furthermore, I think that fantasy often benefits from a straightforward narrative like this one: It makes the reader’s passage into the fantastical realm much more seamless, and it highlights the innovative details Dan has created as part of the worldbuilding process. Continue reading

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Finding an Agent: What No One Wants to Talk About by Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Posted by July 11th, 2014

As a writer and professor of Creative Writing, what I get asked about most is finding an agent. I struggle to answer for a couple of reasons: namely, that there are only two things of worth I have to say on the matter of finding an agent, and because both of them are pretty awkward to say out loud.

Arna Hemenway 2

Arna Bontemps Hemenway poses with his book ELEGY ON KINDERKLAVIER, which comes out from Sarabande Books on Tuesday, July 15th.

Before I get to those two pieces of wisdom, let me start by reiterating what you’ve probably already heard about finding an agent: You should take the time and effort to make your query effective and professional. You shouldn’t sign with an agent you’re afraid of (as the novelist Ethan Canin once memorably put it to me, “you shouldn’t need an agent to call your agent”) or one you can’t talk to or one who seems like they won’t answer your calls if you’re not successful. You want somebody who’s smart and effective enough to make good business decisions for you, but also somebody who seems like a basically good person. Pay attention to your gut. Be ready to get rejected over and over and over and over and over again.

Now we’ve got that good advice out of the way, here’s the first thing no one particularly wants to say or hear about finding an agent: agents are not important. Let me repeat that: the literary agent is not important. No offense. Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet D.J. Pizzarello

Posted by July 7th, 2014

Member Spotlight Book CountryWe are happy to have D.J. Pizzarello with us today! D.J. has written several highly rated works on Book Country including ANGEL OF MERCY and SATAN’S LURE. He is the winner of the Editor’s Choice Prize from AuthorStand. D.J. is currently working on a collection of horror short stories. Connect with D.J. on Book Country

Janet Umenta: Your books have garnered a lot of positive feedback on Book Country! I especially enjoyed reading SATAN’S LURE. How do you use the feedback you receive to better your writing?

D.J. Pizzarello: I often find feedback provocative, giving me the chance to see my work through the eyes of readers.  I try to understand what prompts the suggestions and often find they lead to changes that strengthen my story.  I don’t always incorporate the suggestions as given, but they initiate a chain of thought that improves what I’m writing.  Criticism is, for me, valuable and welcome Continue reading

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