Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Crutch Words

By David E. Sharp

Words make lousy crutches. Not only will they not keep you from hitting the floor if you're wobbly on your feet, they will also annoy your readers if you lean too heavily on them. In the editing process, crutch words are almost as invisible to writers as comma infractions, but they are vastly more irritating.

Even bestselling authors are not immune. I have only to find a new beta-reader if I want to hear, "Gosh, you're really fond of the word "dodecahedron," aren't you?" Who would have thought that three-dimensional geometric figures would come up so frequently in a dystopian cookbook?

How do we keep those crutch words from ruining our manuscripts?

Step 1: Admit You Have a Problem

Crutch words.
You never see them till it's too late.
Your dependence on the word "literally," is ruining your life and destroying your relationships. With your readers, I mean. You're probably not going to get fired over it.

Unless you're a journalist or something. But you are figuratively burning bridges with your readership. And I can't sit here and watch you do this to yourself!

Great! Now that's out of the way, let's move on.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

From Professor to Publisher

By Richard Gutkowski

Just months after my first self-published book (with a second literary baby on the way), my retirement to emeritus professor of civil engineering has allowed me to step in a new direction – writing for the real world. 

My first step was in the backward direction; a return to my youthful wanderlust: writing fictional works. Publishing something fictional, somewhere, somehow was the dream. Now, I had time pursue it. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Diversify Your Portfolio

by Laura Mahal

How’s your asset mix of late? Are you prepared to cope with the volatility of the market? No, I’m not asking if you’ve  invested 60 percent in stocks, 40 percent in bonds, or taken into account dropping oil prices. I'm talking about your writing portfolio.


Though an actual writing portfolio is likely considered a "thing of the past," most agents will agree that it is useful to add depth to your bio. Diversifying demonstrates a flexible attitude, which is in high demand in today’s publishing market. Consider adding some poetry to your YA, a handful of personal essays to offset your sci-fi / thrillers, or a little humor-writing to balance out your research-based nonfiction.

Extend your limits with a challenge, such as crafting on-demand short stories for NYC Midnight, with an assigned genre, character, and subject, a limited word count, and a ticking clock that allows less time with each advancing round. It's an international competition, and the feedback from judges is spectacular. NYC Midnight also has a screenwriting challenge, for those who might wish to try their hand in that field.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Need I Say More? I Guess I Do.

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by J.C. Lynne

I've been around and about the last few weeks talking to writers, emailing writers, and seeing them at workshops. Conference season is the buzz everywhere I've been. Agents, editor, publishers, and writers of all ilk are traveling one place or another to get some face time with each other.

Don't Miss This One!
Maybe I'm biased, but of all of the conferences I've attended Northern Colorado Writers puts on one heck of a doozy. Indeed, I thought I had grown a bit conferenced out until I had the opportunity to moderate two different panel discussions and rediscovered the real reason I love conferences, and this one in particular, in the first place.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Show, Don't Tell

By Ronda Simmons

Ah, the vicious SDT (not to be confused with an STD, which can also be vicious). If you want to really piss off a writer, just make the old Show, Don’t Tell comment. As in, “Your dialog is fantastic and you’ve definitely done your research on the social habits of mid-century urbanites, but your plot suffers from too much telling.” 

That kind of critique gets under a writer’s skin as the most ambiguous, pain in the neck, weak as water comment ever made. And yet, mastering the art of Show, Don't Tell is one of the most important skills a writer needs in her or his tool box.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On Not Fitting In

by David Sharp

Who’s up for some commiseration?

Now, I’m not talking about having nobody better to talk to at a party than the host’s goldfish, though I could write a series of blog posts on that. Today, I’m talking about that special frustration when your masterpiece doesn’t seem to be what anybody’s looking for.

Your romance novel featuring vampire cats practically wrote itself back in the composition phase. But now that you’re trying to shop it out to literary agents, it doesn’t seem to be right for anybody’s list. Go figure, right? Sometimes your inspiration and the whims of the market don’t line up. What’s a writer to do?

It Turns Out Publishing Is a Business

The black hole between genres.
It's real, my friends.  It's real.
Who among us decided to write a political thriller because we noticed that the demand had overreached the supply? Don’t raise your hand; it’s rhetorical. But publishers (and by proxy literary agents) have to see things in those terms. If they don’t, they’re not likely to get very far. And gauging something like that requires a great deal of categorization.

If horror is in-demand right now, then we need to be able to define what horror is. But categories can be tricky if your vision doesn’t fit within them. It can feel like you’re being asked to be either a good witch or a bad witch when actually you’re a runaway from Kansas who’s just seen color for the first time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Discover Your Tribe at the NCW Conference

by April Moore

12th Annual Northern Colorado Writers Conference
Imagination: The Alchemy of Writing
May 5-6, Fort Collins Marriott

I attended my first NCW conference in 2010. I then joined the Conference Creative Team for 2011 and I’ve been to every NCW Conference since. I’ve attended other writer’s conferences in Denver, Jackson Hole, and New York City, but I can say, (and I promise I’m not being biased), I think the NCW Conference is my favorite and here’s why:

Small size. With attendance between 130-150, participants generally have more opportunity to
engage with fellow attendees and faculty than at larger conferences. When was the last time you chatted with an agent or editor over a coffee or cocktail? It’s easy to be overwhelmed by large conferences, and even though you're surrounded by hundreds of others, it can feel lonely and isolating when you don’t know anyone else. 

Welcoming and inclusive. Many writers, particularly ones new to the industry, often think they have no business at a writer’s conference until they’re an “established” author. Banish this thought! Writer’s conferences are incredibly beneficial to you new writers because you’ll meet people who will likely become your biggest support system; you’ll gain an enormous amount of insight and knowledge about writing, all in one place; and you’ll go home feeling energized and inspired to write.

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