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Posts tagged ‘Donald Maass’

When it comes to writing, don’t let sleeping dogs lie

If you want to write a page turner, you must have conflict. What’s more, you have to raise the stakes. Have you ever heard that saying, “Just when you didn’t think it could get any worse….” If you want to write a page turner, you have to make things worse just when the reader didn’t think it could get any worse.

Writer and literary agent Donald Maass knows this. Here are several questions he urges writers to ask themselves about their work in progress:

1. What’s at stake? How can you raise the stakes so that there’s more to lose, gain, fear?

2. What gives your protagonist hope? How can you crush that hope?

3. What does your protagonist regret? Can you create a situation that amplifies the regret?

4. What tools or resources does your protagonist possess to help solve her problem? Can you take one away or put a block in her path? Force her in a new direction?

Maass believes its possible to write a book that appeals to readers on a commercial and literary level. For more insight that will take your writing to new heights, check out his book Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling.

Editing techniques to make your prose sing

Having been a poet for 30+ years, I know the importance of each word. Every single word needs to be polished and perfect—perfect for our intended meaning, the emotions we want to evoke and the music it brings to our ears.

A great way to learn how to improve your prose is to read poetry. For help developing a daily poetry habit read Carly’s post “Write lyrically by reading poetry.”

The great news is we can apply the lessons we learn from poetry to our prose. It seems like a daunting task, doesn’t it? Every word in your 90,000-word manuscript polished and perfect? Read more

When to break the rules in writing

I wrote a nonfiction piece recently that blended elements of essay with elements of narrative nonfiction. I took it to my writing group for their critique and one person expressed concern that my piece was blending two genres that shouldn’t be blended.

I thought his comment was interesting, considering he’d only read three of my five pages and didn’t know how the piece ended. In his mind, essays were one type of beast and narrative nonfiction another.  In a way, he’s right. They’re both nonfiction but with different intents and purposes.

Writers have been blending genres for years and are still coming up with new combinations. When is it okay to try something new, to blend elements together that aren’t normally seen together? The answer is—when it works. As you mature as a writer, you’ll know when it works and when it doesn’t. In the meantime, get feedback from others. Read more

How to take your finished manuscript to the next level

When I was writing my memoir, it seemed as if the editing process would last a lifetime. When I finally felt as if my manuscript was ready to send out to the world, I took the advice of agent Don Maass and applied one final editing technique. The results were pretty remarkable. I highly recommend this process for all writers whether you’re a beginner or a published professional.

Here’s how it works: When you think you’re done with your manuscript, take a handful of pages (20 to 30) and throw them up in the air. Repeat until the entire manuscript is scattered across your floor. Then randomly gather the pages into one big pile.

Now, go through your manuscript page by page (still out of order). As you read each page, find a way to do these two things per page: Read more

Want to publish? Approach your writing as a career

Sure you want to get your work published, but have you thought about your writing in terms of a career?

It’s easy to focus on the work at hand — the current short story, memoir, or novel in progress. But a couple years ago, I gained a new perspective from literary agent Donald Maass, who says:

Writing is a long-term profession that you must approach as a career. And that career is ultimately in the writer’s court.

First and foremost, Maass says, a writing career begins with good storytelling. Studying craft and writing daily is step one. Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel, teaches writing and how to propel your storycraft to the next level in his book and workshops. His advice made me think about what it takes to build a writing career.

Consider these career-building strategies.

Hook into your town’s writing community. Writers are everywhere, so whether you live in a town, tiny burg, or big city, you should be able to find a community of writers (even if it’s small) who share your interest. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, consider starting your own writer’s group. Writing MeetUp Groups are another good way to find a writer’s group focused on writing in general or by genre. Read more