r-o-u-fizairre asked: I was looking at "Nessa's Five Things Want Submitted" on your website, and I was wondering what limitations you have to those desired submissions? (i.e. I feel like "give me other ____s" is too broad with a chance of those submissions going into the slushpile instead?)
Other than the submissions need to meet our submission guidelines (main character age 14-18 who identifies on the LGBTQ+ spectrum and experiences positive character growth), no. We’re actively looking to increase the diversity of the books we publish and putting limits on that would be counterproductive.
As for the slush pile, we read everything that’s submitted to us unless the submission makes it clear that it doesn’t meet our guidelines.
Creating Interesting Locations
When there’s not much for your reader to imagine, your story becomes dull and no one really cares about the action. Actually, if there are only a few locations there’s probably not much action to talk about. Creating interesting locations helps move your story forward and can make all the difference.
Varying locations is very important. All the scenes in your book shouldn’t take place in the same location or locations that are too similar. Think about Harry Potter for a moment. Most of the early books take place at Hogwarts, but Hogwarts is so interesting and there are so many mysteries that it never gets boring. Hogwarts itself is a location, but all the pieces that much up Hogwarts make it fascinating. Even if the story does take place in the same location, you need to make that location interesting. There can be different aspects of it that you and your readers can explore, just like at Hogwarts.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Thing about how your scene would change in a different location.
Try imagining a scene in different locations and see what’s most interesting. A scene in a science fiction story might be more interesting in a busy space port, than in a boring normal room. Use the genre to your advantage.
Writing interesting locations helps motivate you.
There are certain scenes that get me excited and I can’t wait to write them. That can have a lot to do with the location of your scene. If there’s a really cool place you want to explore in your own story, you’re probably excited about getting to it. That will help you stay on point with your writing goals.
If there’s a location you’re not sure about, take a little extra time to plan it out.
Maybe sketch a room or write down what you want to be included. This might help you in the long run because you’ll have something to reference back to. You’ll also be able to figure out what you want each character to be doing and what the possible distractions are. Write enough so that your readers will be able to visualize it too.
Description: Not Too Little, Not Too Much
Anonymous asked: Many books write everything down, moment by moment ( X said this and laughed, then Y responded and walked out of the room), etc, etc. The thing is, I want to find a style of writing where I don’t have to do this, or else I get extremely bored (and I believe the reader would get bored too). I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense.
The only reason it doesn’t make sense is because most books don’t actually do this. If they did, no one would ever read. ;)
There is a certain amount of description that is necessary to paint a picture for the reader. Consider the following descriptions:
I went to the ice cream shop. Becky was there. We talked. Becky was sad. We ate ice cream. I went home.
I woke up from my nap and decided to walk to the ice cream shop near the park. Apparently everyone else in town had the same idea, because the place was packed. Still, I’d walked all that way and was craving a chocolate sundae, so I jumped in line and waited patiently, chatting with neighbors and people I knew from school. I was in line nearly ten minutes before I finally placed my order, and as luck would have it, a table opened up outside on the sidewalk.
Just as I was about to sit down, I noticed my friend Becky sitting alone at another table. She looked upset, so I’d better make sure she was okay. As it turned out, Becky had broken up with her boyfriend that morning and really needed someone to talk to. I listened quietly while she vented, and we finished our ice cream while we chatted.Obviously, the second version is infinitely more interesting because it provides more detail. But it still doesn’t go as far as describing every single movement. If it did, I would have needed a whole chapter just to get her from her nap to the ice cream shop. ;)
21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors
1. The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman11. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are ******* ******* representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut14. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway15. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway16. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk17. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain18. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you.― Neil Gaiman19. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde20. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously.– Lev Grossman
(Asterisks are where I removed transphobic language from the quote.)
Your Weekly Writing Goals
It can be hard to plan out your writing too far in advance because you never know what can change or what will happen week to week. If you take a few moments either Sunday night or Monday mornings, I find that’s a good time to figure out your writing goals for the upcoming week. They can always be adjusted depending on what comes up, but you should try to stick to them as much as you can. This helps you figure out what you need to do and how you will do it. Planning helps you stay on track with your writing and helps keep your productive.
Here are a few ways to go about planning out your week—
If you have a full work week, keep in mind that you’re probably going to be tired.
You need to give yourself time to rest, so you probably won’t be able to write for three + hours every night. Cut it down into manageable time frames. I’ve said this a million times, but even twenty minutes of writing helps. If you can fit in a few twenty minute writing sprints, you’re doing great.
Figure out when you’re most creative or when you write best.
I like writing in the evening, but some people thrive in the morning. If that’s the case for you, wake up about a half hour earlier than you normally would and start writing. That will help jump start your creativity and you’ll probably even be able to write more later. Think about the conditions that work best for you.
There are also days you’re going to be more productive.
If you find that you’re always down on Mondays or Wednesdays, for example, adjust your writing goals accordingly. If you write less on one day, there’s nothing wrong with that. Also, if you’re feeling better on one specific day, don’t be afraid to write past your goal. You don’t have to stop yourself when you’re on a roll. If you feel like there’s something you need to get down on paper immediately, KEEP GOING. Be ready when inspiration hits.
Figuring out your weekly writing goals all depends on your style.
You’ll be more productive if you plan out this stuff, but you also need to be flexible. Things will happen and you might feel less inspired on certain days. If you can, try to fight through it when you feel like you’re not writing anything good. Write anything, even if it’s not for your current WIP. Writing anything will help you stay on task and will teach you to write even when you don’t necessarily feel like it.
There will always be times when you don’t want to write and there might be stuff you’re going through that prevents you from writing. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and don’t neglect yourself if you’re feeling low. Take care of yourself first!
"Overused" is Overused: Why You Should Stop Avoiding Clichés in Your Writing and Just Write
[DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. This article comes from my own personal feelings about the subject of including cliché themes in a manuscript, and should on no account be taken as the only truth. I just want to make a point that’s often overlooked when talking about clichés in writing.]
I see a lot of worried anon asks on my dashboard referring to including cliché themes in their writing. They always worry about whether or not they should write a certain scene or contribute a certain aspect to their character’s backstory, often closing off a very good idea with “or is that too overused?” or “should I cut it because it’s too cliché?” I like the advice that generally comes with the responses about finding alternative options, but it upsets me to see so many people considering cutting huge portions from their first drafts in order to avoid these cliché themes. A lot of great ideas are often passed up even before the editing stage because the writer finds them to be “not original enough,” and it bothers me to think that they’re compromising their work in order to please some audience that’s never even offered criticism.
I get that a lot of it does stem from our own self-doubt, and that’s totally understandable. Everyone looks at their own work more critically than others would, and it can lead to a lot of unease about the quality of the work in question. That’s always going to happen. We can use it to improve our writing and smooth over parts that we don’t find satisfactory, but in cases like this, it can often become a hindrance and cause us to be too harsh.
There’s nothing wrong with clichés. Writers often shudder at the mention of the word, but they’re really not all that bad. They’re not giant tentacle monsters that are going to shit all over your hard work and make it smelly and intolerable, they’re just commonly used themes that are sometimes abundant in certain genres. They’re like a spice—you want to use some to add a little flavor, but you don’t want to use too much. A little bit of cliché in a story can add a certain warm familiarity that invites the reader in and reminds them of the things they love about romance/fantasy/historic novels, but too much can make them seem bland. You don’t want to avoid using them altogether, however, and especially in the first draft stage.
If you start turning a critical eye on your writing at such an early point in the story, it’s only going to get worse as time goes on. If you pick apart every little detail in the very beginning, you’ll either end up with a lot of inconsistencies or a lot of missing information. You may even end up scrapping the idea entirely because you just can’t get past the “unoriginal” theme you included. The critic’s eye is meant to emerge in the editing stage, when you fine-tune your writing to make it the complicated and intriguing piece of art that you know it is. In the first draft stage, you’re just pouring your ideas onto the canvas in preparation. You’re setting the groundwork for the detailing that comes later, so just write what comes to mind, no matter how cliché it may seem.
Of course there will be people who pick apart your writing. Some people are professionals and critique you for a living. Others just like to analyze. Others still are big fat jerks. They tell you something is too overdone and that they’ve seen it too much lately, and you start to feel not-so-gloriously-confident in your writing. That’s always going to happen; it’s part of being a published writer (or at least a writer that shares their work with others). Common themes are inevitable, especially when something is trending. Have you noticed all the supernatural-based stories that have happened recently? All these ghosts and vampires and werewolves and fairies? All of a sudden, they’ve just become the raging shit and everyone’s either reading or writing one. But does that mean they’re bad? No! I’ve actually found some really good ones out there that don’t get the attention they deserve.
Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it’s never allowed to be done again. Sometimes it’s good to have a few “overused” themes for the sake of the story. If the story would benefit from a dream sequence, include the dream sequence! If you think that Main Character A and Slightly Secondary Character B should get together, then put them together! There isn’t a Big Evil Book of Writing Rules that says you’re never allowed to include certain themes just because they’re a little cliché. Can you think of how many books and characters would be ruined if people stopped using the “tragic hero” archetype just because it’s been done since The Iliad?
I know it’s hard to face the prospect of having your work rejected because of someone’s idea of what’s acceptable and what’s not. I had a guy actually laugh aloud at my work because I was using a theme that had been “played out too often.” He actually had the gall to tell me to cut my main protagonist from the story because his type was too overused and that the only way he could possibly be interesting is if I changed every single aspect of him to make an entirely different story. He told me my story had no potential and that I’d never get a reader basis if I wrote a traditional fantasy story with—God forbid!—a traditional fantasy plotline. I politely told him that I wasn’t writing for the sake of a reader basis and that I was writing for myself and he said, “Good, because you’re obviously not trying to get published if you’re writing like this.”
I was floored, to say the least, and it definitely made me hugely over-analytical because I thought I was “too cliché” and that readers wouldn’t ever want to see my work. No doubt all of you have had at least a similar experience, or these are the things you’re telling yourself. But you know what?
Fuck that guy. Fuck anyone who tries to tell you that your work isn’t good enough just because it has a few “cliché themes”. Fuck anyone that thinks they can tell you that your work isn’t up to par because you decided to make the main character an orphan or give them a premonition in the form of a recurring nightmare. Say it with me, “Fuck those guys.”
This is your first draft. This is your baby, your idea that you’re putting your time and effort into making a reality. It’s going to be a little rough around the edges, it’s going to include some stuff that gets cut in the final edit. But it’s a good plan, it’s a good start, and it’s a good idea no matter how cliché it seems at the time. It WILL get better as you continue to work on it. Practice makes perfect, and maybe as you progress in the plot, you’ll find a way to go back and change it so it’s not so obviously mirroring a common archetype. Maybe you’ll find an alternative yourself during the editing stages once you’ve had more time to think about it. But for now, it’s just a work in progress that deserves all the time and attention you can put into it, even if it is a little cliché.
The point is, clichés are not satanic doom pits that should be avoided at all cost. They exist in the first place because they’re good ideas that are so good that they’ve been implemented multiple times by different people over the years. Sure, they’re a little worn out and rusty sometimes, and they can make you sigh when you find them, but that doesn’t make them inherently evil, manuscript-ruining things of the darkest pit of hell. They’re fine to use, especially in first drafts, because they’re often the first thing that comes to mind when you’re creating a plot, and often give rise to many other ideas later on in the process. They seem like good ideas at the time, and you want to include them to let the story play out a certain way.
So do it! Include those damn clichés. Make everyone live happily ever after. Let the guy get the girl. And for God’s sake, make the little old man next door into a Mr. Miyagi or Obi-Wan type that gives your character wise and unsolicited advice. Do it. And if you happen to re-read your draft later during the editing stages and start to cringe, go ahead and change it. But please, please don’t start censoring a lovely stream of good ideas for the sake of pleasing a currently invisible audience. It’s only going to hurt you in the end, so just write what makes you happy. Write what you want, not what other people might tell you.
Words to Describe Emotions
- Pissed off