How to Make Friends And Be Influenced BY People

By Katie Lewis

Other writers are one of the best and arguably most overlooked tools at a writer’s disposal. I’m about as reclusive as they come, and even I will admit it’s worth it to network, even if it’s hard. There are plenty of ways to reach that goal. Some involve organized events, and some involve leg work alone. No one needs to run out and do anything here tomorrow, but allow me to provide a few options for your consideration.

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Where’s Leonard Nemoy When You Need Him?

(In Search of . . . A Good Book)

By David E. Sharp

Okay, It WAS A Deep Cut.

After closing the cover on my latest literary conquest, I set the book aside. I let my opinion settle on the story I had just read. It was all right. It kept my attention enough to see me through to the end. At the same time, I can already tell this book won’t linger on the fringes of my mind where all my favorites live.

Was something missing? All the elements were strong: developed characters, dynamic plot, authentic dialogue, and plenty of conflicts. It was even from a solid major publisher. Somehow, it all combined to create an average experience.

What went wrong?

Storytelling IS Alchemy.

A little magic and a little chemistry (a lot less lead poisoning), you combine a bunch of ingredients and hope for a reaction. Sometimes you achieve the results you’re looking for. Other times you accidentally fill the lab with blue smoke that stains everything and everyone it touches.

Well, that’s why we test things! Positive results reinforce your hypotheses. Negative results force you to reexamine your theories. And some results may result in Smurf jokes for the next two weeks.

Writers don’t string words together to decorate paper. We’re after results! Those words are specifically chosen to enthrall our readers. Or to inspire emotions in them. There is no more incredible thrill for a writer than to make readers weep. Reader tears give us pleasure! We collect them in bottles and keep them on our mantles like trophies.

When people read something we’ve written and hand it back with a quiet nod and a monotone, “It’s good,” we go back to our offices, stare at whiteboards full of cryptic formulae, and wonder where we went wrong. We whisper to our empty tear bottles, assuring them we will fill them soon.

The Elusive Catalyst.

The difficulty writers run into is an unstable variable that 1.) we cannot ignore and 2.) affects the results of our writing experiments enormously. The lack of this crucial ingredient was responsible for my underwhelming experience with the book I recently read. This same ingredient can be the most difficult—sometimes maddening—component to predict or account for. Readers!

No storytelling endeavor is complete without someone to receive it. You can’t enthrall a rock—at least, according to my findings. You need a reader to complete the experience. And readers all come with their tastes, experiences, references, and expectations. No two readers will respond similarly, and no writer can conclusively determine how a reader will respond.

Draw all the hypotheses you like, but even when people tell me what they love about my stories, they always bring up something that surprises me. Some aspects of one character will have resonated with them in a way I never considered.

Why was the book I read so blah? Did the writer need more talent? Absolutely not! Everything was polished, expertly implemented, and flawlessly executed. It just didn’t synch up with my own tastes and preferences.

Give that book to the right reader, and you may get a reaction that blows a hole through the lab roof. But for me, it was just a fizzle. At the same time, I have granted places of honor on my bookshelf for books that I found technically imperfect, but that completely blew my mind.

So, what makes a good book? It’s not science, after all.

I’m not saying there are no objective standards. We writers should create engaging characters, dynamic dialogue, and absorbing plots. But all these simple elements contribute to the overall goal of connecting to our readers. Sometimes I must remind myself of the human aspect.

A story may be flawless in execution and still lack heart. Don’t forget to leave your fingerprint on the stories you tell. Unlike chemistry, narrative is not an exact science. Finding a great book feels like making a new friend and not developing a new polymer. (Of course, as a decidedly NOT-chemist, I can only speculate.)

The people I meet are always flawed. The books I love usually aren’t either. But they can come from anywhere! I’ve loved stories from big five publishers, and I’ve loved stories from small presses. I’ve found some tremendous self-published titles and even found a few unpublished gems stashed away in desk drawers.

Stories are as unique as the people who tell them and as unforgettable as those who read them. And when a writer and a reader connect through the written word…


The Alchemy of Writing

Western Structures of Storytelling

Great Traditional Reads of 2023

You Already Know What You Already Know

By Renate Hancock

Overcome the obstacles in your writing life with four simple steps you already know.

You can stop reading right now if:

  • You’re an author who has publishers in bidding wars over your work.
  • You consistently produce a book (or two) every year.
  • You have your writing process down to a fine science.Keep reading if you’re a writer who sneaks past your WIP to search writing blogs for courage and inspiration.

Keep reading if you’re a writer who sneaks past your WIP to search writing blogs for courage and inspiration.

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A Matter of More

By Brian Kaufman

As a baby, my parents liked to tell me how I heard my first violin and burst into tears. The pure, rich tones sound more like a human voice than any other instrument, except maybe a blue guitar note. That’s why emotional scenes in movies make use of an orchestral background. That’s why Alfred Hitchcock used short, shrieking violin notes to accompany the shower stabbing in Psycho.

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Supporting Your Supporting Cast

By David E. Sharp

No director would ever cast me as Hamlet.

In my theatrical days, I played a multitude of characters. Some were friendly, and others were malicious. Some were courageous, and others were cowardly. Some were clever, but most were foolish. I wish some were ruggedly handsome, but the directors always cast other actors for those parts.

You May Not Know There Names, But You Have Seen Them Everywhere.
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A New Way to Revise

By Renate Hancock

You’ve finished the rough draft. You congratulate yourself on typing The End. Whoo hoo! Break out the champagne! What a feeling of accomplishment. You bask in it for a quick minute, then recognize precisely what that means. Next step: revising. Ugh. Your jubilation fades. How are you ever going to get through it?

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Keep Moving Forward

By Brian Kaufman

In baseball, they call it the sophomore jinx. After a great rookie season, many players need help to repeat their initial success. In music, they call it the second album syndrome. After spending years perfecting songs for a debut album, the record company books studio time, and the band is rushed to record a follow-up—often falling short. 

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More Than Simply A Number

By Katie Lewis

Humans like finite answers. It’s a trait we all share. How many people live in your house? How many beans are in the jar? How many types of stories exist in the world? Something is pleasing about putting a number to these questions. However, the answer to the last can vary from 6 to 36. And even those higher numbers need to be extended. The very nature of art is to change, to evolve, to expand. Writing is no different.

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The IT Factor

By David E. Sharp

Last month on The Writing Bug, I talked about the value of genre and how it operates as a tool to help readers find the right books. While genre categorization can be a bit of a nuisance to writers who don’t like fitting into boxes, we can find ways to use it to our advantage.

This month, I would like to go beyond genre to hone in on the specific aspects of writing that resonate with readers. What makes you love a story? What experience do you seek when you browse the bookshelf? What lingers with you long after you finish the last page?

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Pitches And Falling Elevators

By Renate Hancock

I stood in front of the elevator watching the lights above the door illuminate one by one. Snow melted from my boots onto the floor beside my suitcase. I pulled my laptop case from my shoulder and stretched my neck, rolling my head from side to side.  

I’d made it through a day teaching children, then drove four hours through a blizzard to attend this writer’s conference. The elevator dinged, and the door opened. 

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