Tag Archives: advice


Longline of My Dreams

Loglines are usually associated with TV and movies but as an ever-resourceful writer, but they can be quite useful for novelists.

Juliet and Jon define, dissect, and discuss loglines. Jon shares one that he’s working on and with for a current writing project.

David Macinnis Gill is an associate professor of English education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, specializing in young adult literature. We talk about his very useful blog post about loglines:


Uses #1
Log lines are very useful to you. They allow to you answer the question, “so what’s your book about?” with a succinct phrase, rather than beginning with the stock, “well, see there’s this guy….”
Use #2
A second good use for the log line is the pitch. This handy, dandy quick summary of your story is very useful in persuading agents, editors, and even your dentist that you’ve hit on a “wow” premise that simply MUST be written. Better yet, if it’s already written, then it MUST be read. Think of a pitch in terms of advertising: You’re trying to hook a reader the way a commercial tries to hook a detergent user. Seriously. Alan Gratz, author of Samurai Shortstop and several other excellent novels for teens, calls this the elevator pitch, under the assumption that if you’re riding four stories with an editor, you can finish your delivery before the doors open.
Use #3
The third use for a log line is you. A novel is a big thing. It’s difficult to hold the whole story in your mind, especially when you’ve finished a first draft and are still giddy from the flow of creative juices. Writing a log line helps you define—for yourself—the essential elements of the plot. It was also let you know immediately is major components of the plot are missing. This prevents episodic plots that are a string of (interesting and exciting) events that lack a complete story spine.

Check out one of David Macinnis Gill’s books at Amazon. Soul Enchilada.

Juliet mentioned one of her favorite books, Earnest Hemmingway’s at Amazon A Moveable Feast.


Stephen King’s 20 Writing Rules Reconsidered – Part 3

This is the final, part three, of our shows on Stephen King’s writing advice.

We consider these points:

Find the whole article here:

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second to least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “Most exercise facilities are now equipped with TVs, but TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs. If you feel you must have the news analyst blowhard on CNN while you exercise, or the stock market blowhards on MSNBC, or the sports blowhards on ESPN, it’s time for you to question how serious you really are about becoming a writer. You must be prepared to do some serious turning inward toward the life of the imagination, and that means, I’m afraid, that Geraldo, Keigh Obermann, and Jay Leno must go. Reading takes time, and the glass teat takes too much of it.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “When I’m asked for ‘the secret of my success’ (an absurd idea, that, but impossible to get away from), I sometimes say there are two: I stayed physically healthy, and I stayed married. It’s a good answer because it makes the question go away, and because there is an element of truth in it. The combination of a healthy body and a stable relationship with a self reliant woman who takes zero shit from me or anyone else has made the continuity of my working life possible. And I believe the converse is also true: that my writing and the pleasure I take in it has contributed to the stability of my health and my home life.”

12. Write one word at a time. “A radio talk-show host asked me how I wrote. My reply—’One word at a time’—seemingly left him without a reply. I think he was trying to decide whether or not I was joking. I wasn’t. In the end, it’s always that simple. Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord Of The Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall.”



Stephen King’s 20 Writing Rules Reconsidered – Part 1

We open up a can of arrogance on Stephen King’s 20 Writing Rules.
Sometimes we like his advice…
Sometimes we don’t…
As always, we discuss why and why not.

Find the whole article here:

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe. The timid fellow writes “The meeting will be held at seven o’clock” because that somehow says to him, ‘Put it this way and people will believe you really know. ‘Purge this quisling thought! Don’t be a muggle! Throw back your shoulders, stick out your chin, and put that meeting in charge! Write ‘The meeting’s at seven.’ There, by God! Don’t you feel better?”
3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend. Consider the sentence “He closed the door firmly.” It’s by no means a terrible sentence, but ask yourself if ‘firmly’ really has to be there. What about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before ‘He closed the door firmly’? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, then isn’t ‘firmly’ an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?”
4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.” “While to write adverbs is human, to write ‘he said’ or ‘she said’ is divine.”
5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all. “
6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.”
7. Read, read, read. “You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”