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    Word counts

    Word length is something beginner writers tend to obsess about. It is good to know the basic rules of thumb, but you shouldn’t get too bogged down in the detail. Here’s the most basic rule of thumb: an adult novel is 80,000-100,000 words. Different genres do have their different expectations, of course. Romance tends to be shorter; epic fantasy tends to be longer (but not as long as you’d think, for a debut novelist!). But, really, there’s not a lot in it. Young adult novels tend to be quite a lot shorter, but have a greater range: anything between 45,000 and 80,000 words is probably fine. Children’s books are of…

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    What I really liked about the query tracker post on writing a synopsis that I mentioned under Synopsis, was that I thought there was some really good revision advice in there too — namely, the idea of writing a 2-3 sentence summary of each chapter (which process immediately reveals if the chapter isn’t actually doing anything!). I think that’s a great place to start your revision. The process of doing that should throw up any weak scenes. There’s an article in Writer’s Digest that discusses how to strengthen your scenes. They suggest you start by picking the 10 weakest scenes in your book (even if you don’t think they’re actually…

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    “all too often I see writers take the all-at-once approach: a character has a problem, realizes it, decides to act differently, and is thenceforth cured. Like magic! It’s exactly like magic, in as much as that’s not how life actually works. In the real world, personal growth takes time and practice.” Great point! See Five steps to building a believable character arc In a Writer’s Digest seminar on “The Psychology of Character Motivation”, thriller writer D.P. Lyle suggested that you should work out where all your characters start off on each of the following key dimensions: Tough Guy <–> Whiner Team Guy <–> Rebel Artist <–> Dreamer Smarty <–> Dummy…

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    Genre advice

    “want our heroes frustrated, walking the edge between good & evil” I don’t know where this quote comes from, but it’s great, isn’t it? Fantasy For amusement (and also because it’s worth thinking about), those who write epic fantasy, should check out the Fantasy Novelist’s Exam. Mystery What mystery readers hate in a story (a list from readers on a mystery listserv) Horror Joe McKinney gives five reasons great horror stories work: Not enough to have a great setting; you need to give “a sense that we are closed off from the rest of the world, that we are no longer free or able to run away, that we are…

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    Plotting Top of my list is Jim Butcher’s advice in a series of livejournal posts; a must-read. Particularly: The post about conflict and the importance of logical order The story skeleton (*WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS*, *YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. But will he succeed when *ANTAGONIST PROVIDES OPPOSITION*?) The problem of the Great Swampy Middle About scenes and sequels and climaxes I find his description of the story arc really helpful: Beginning sets up all the dominos. When all the dominoes are set up, time to hit the Big Middle event (can also bring in a new subplot &/or new character). Dominoes then topple one after another, till you hit the…

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    Writing resources

    Over the many years I have been writing, I have come across much advice on the web. Many of these I was sufficiently impressed by to dump them in a Word document for my later perusal. Well, the document got longer and longer, and so I decided that if it was going to do me any good, I needed to pick out ‘the good bits’. Now I hasten to add that these are entirely idiosyncratic, and not meant to be any judgment! But I thought I would put my collection ‘in the cloud’, where they would be accessible to others as well as me. Feel free to add any good…

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