As the year draws to a close, we’re rounding up the most popular posts from the Now Novel blog in 2016 as well as some of our favourite articles for authors from around the blogosphere. If you’re using your holidays to revise your novel or start a new one, join Now Novel and get helpful feedback from a diverse community of writers.
2016’s best writing articles on Now Novel
Take-home point: Use character development to avoid the muddy middle. ‘Make the middle books show character development: show the reader how the main characters acquire the skill, conviction or strategy they need to reach their objectives.’
Take-home point: Just because you’re using first person narration, this doesn’t mean your narrator has to be the complete focus.
‘Create intrigue by having your protagonist refer to a secondary character in your opening.’
‘The colour of a person’s eyes doesn’t tell us whether they are kind or cruel, an optimist or a pessimist.’
Take-home point: ‘Happy people in happy land’ is a character approach that quickly stales. ‘Character relationships in novels that show no tension can feel flat and one-dimensional. This isn’t to say characters have to brawl every other chapter. Yet characters’ flaws should sometimes create conflict as they often do in real life.’
Take-home point: The most believable villains have motivations that explain the rationale behind their malice or cruelty because everyone has an origin or backstory.
Take-home point: Copy out great sentences to see how good writing fits together: ‘Simply copying out a paragraph word for word will help you see the inner workings of sentence structure and description closer. Yet to get the most out of this exercise, try to memorize what the writer you are copying has said and rewrite the whole paragraph without looking.’
Take-home point: Answering creative writing prompts focusing on specific aspects of craft will help you hone your writing, skill by skill.
Take-home point: Dialogue doesn’t always need to start at the beginning. Dropping readers into a conversation already underway can create intrigue and temporary confusion, adding suspense.
Take-home point: Subplots that support your main story arc and themes enrich a book, unifying its message and effect.
Take-home point: To make your book a page-turner, make resolutions and new challenges overlap:
‘Example: Your character gets through the job interview fine, but one of the senior partners seems unimpressed and curt. Your character can tell it’s going to be an uphill battle to win him over.’
5 of our favourite posts for writers from the blogosphere in 2016
In no particular order, here were 5 blog posts from elsewhere we enjoyed this year:
In this concise post, Angela Ackerman shares some strong tips with examples for writing story settings.
Particularly interesting is her point that certain settings can help bring out characters’ assets:
‘The right setting can greatly enhance our story, providing tests and challenges for our hero to overcome (the Black Gate in The Lord Of The Rings, or the Cornucopia in The Hunger Games), fortify the character, reminding them of their greatest assets (Hermione and the Hogwarts library come to mind) or allow the ghosts of the past to resurface and shape a character’s vulnerability (the sewers in Stephen King’s It.)
In this succinct post, author Elizabeth Spann Craig shares some of her personal productivity tips. Spann Craig’s advice to use what she calls ‘dead time’ is advice we’ve repeated often:
‘One of the most helpful things that I did was to learn how to write in public places and to be able to pick up my story in odd pockets of the day when I had dead time…waiting for my car to have its oil changed, waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting in a carpool line. Be sure to upload your story and outline to the cloud so that you can access it on the go.’
Although this post is directed to participants in the annual NaNoWriMo writing marathon, a lot of the advice is applicable for all seasons. For example this great warning against self-defeating perfectionism:
‘The perfect is the enemy of the good. This is a vital truth in all creative acts. Tattoo it onto your eyeballs so you always see it. Hire somebody to whisper it into your ear.’
Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings blog is a treasure trove of fine, considered reflections on writing, philosophy and more. Popova engages with other writers’ ideas and wisdom with clarity and enriches the sources she draws on.
In this post, Popova reflects on Rainer Maria Rilke’s thoughts on why writers should create. Popova typically supports her reflections with choice, insightful quotes from history’s great writers.
Publishing expert Jane Friedman’s blog is a great resource for writers close to finishing their manuscripts who are wondering ‘what next?’ This is a comprehensive post on writing query letters that Friedman periodically updates with new information. A truly useful resource if you are new to the publishing process or need a refresher on how to go about querying the right way.
What were some of your favourite posts on writing this past year? Share in the comments section.