No More Free Rides: Cut Unnecessary Words From Your Manuscript

by Dave Pasquantonio

Congratulations—you finished your novel! You crafted nail-biting tension and perfect character arcs. You killed darlings and kept reader promises. And that ending? It sings. You’re done!

But wait—93,827 words? Uh-oh. You really wanted to come in under 90K. And that last editing pass was thorough. You killed off three secondary characters, consolidated scenes, and took out those boring pages where Wilhelm and Gene talked about that time they saw the moose. There’s nothing left to cut!

Or is there? Continue reading

“Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman: A Discussion Guide For Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

cd.pngNeal Shusterman’s novel Challenger Deep is a reality-bending study of one teenage boy’s struggle with mental illness. By studying Shusterman’s novel, writers can explore the use of an unreliable narrator, consider the complexity of managing two different plot lines, and examine the methods Shusterman employs to write accurately and sensitively about mental health.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Challenger Deep. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Shusterman’s methods. Continue reading

Take a Peek Behind the Bookshelves; or Why Bookstores and Writers Need Each Other

by Allison Pottern Hoch

On September 10th, I’m moderating a panel of bookselling experts at the Writers’ Loft. I pitched this event to the Loft because, to me, the importance of bookstores and booksellers to the career of a writer is critical. Strong advocacy from bookstores can make a significant impact on the sales of a book. And writers can be relentless supports of local indies. At “Behind the Bookshelves: A Panel on Building Relationships with Bookstores” we’re going to talk about what working at a bookstore looks like, how writers and bookstores can support one another, and how their marketing efforts can work in concert. Continue reading

Meet A Lofter: Laura Woollett

by Sandra Budiansky

This month, we’re talking to Laura Woollett, a regular contributor at Loftings and a published author of the nonfiction book Big Top Burning. Laura also juggles a full-time job, writing, and taking care of her family.

Q:  Your first book is nonfiction, and I know you’re changing gears and working on a novel now. What’s different and what’s the same?

I love doing research and learning about different moments in U.S. history and what life was like for people. I’m now writing historical fiction set in 1800s Waltham, Mass., so I’m using many of the same research techniques I used for Big Top Burning. Of course, I can’t interview people, but there are some great first-hand accounts I can draw from to get a flavor of the time. One major difference is that I get to think up the characters and their problems. I love putting my characters into terrifying situations and seeing how they will react. Did I mention my new novel is also horror?

Q:  Are you a planner or a pantser? Also, do you enjoy drafting or revising more?

I’m a planner for sure. I have a complete outline for the book. It helps me to be able to dip in and out of my manuscript whenever I can clear bits of time for writing. I like different things about drafting and revising. Drafting is great because I can write complete crap and it’s OK. I will go back and fix it later. I’m an editor by profession, so revising is definitely where I’m strongest. Getting to the point where I have a draft to work with is the hardest part for me.

Q: What is some of the best writing advice you’ve gotten?

Don’t be afraid to write badly. You can always fix it later. Just get the words on the page.

Q: Do you want to tell us about what you’re working on?

I’ll give you my pitch: Inspired by Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Resurrectionist is about a scientifically impassioned mill girl in the 1830s who uses a new medical technique called galvanism to bring her best friend back from the dead. But when it all goes wrong, she must make a choice. Will she continue to “rebuild” her friend with body parts obtained by grave robbers? Or will she learn to let go of the person she loves most in this world?

Q: A favorite podcast of mine is How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black. I’m going to borrow from him and ask you about some things you find amazing.

  1. What is a book you find amazing? I love anything mysterious or macabre. (Are you surprised?) Libba Bray’s The Diviners is a masterful work of fiction. I’m also devouring everything by Gillian Flynn and Ruth Ware this summer.
  2. TV show or movie? I love the Netflix series Stranger Things. It appeals to my 1980s nostalgia and my love of horror. I also love The 100. I felt embarrassed when I discovered it is on the CW, a network aimed at teens. Guilty pleasure!
  3. Something to listen to/podcast or music? I don’t listen to music while I’m writing like some people. It’s too distracting for me. I do enjoy listening to podcasts about writing. Narrative Breakdown is good.

Sandra Budiansky is a co-editor of Loftings. She is perpetually working on a YA novel while dabbling in picture books and essays. You can usually find her sitting at the big table at the Writers’ Loft.

Learning “Fast and Furiously” with Karen Boss—Part 2

by Lisa Rogers

Following the runaway success of her picture book courses over the last year, Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss brings her amazing energy this fall to The Writers’ Loft with four workshops, a one-day class, and a four-week course.

The first two workshops focus on craft, the third on the publishing process from submission to publication, and the fourth on idea development. Then—fasten your seat belts—Karen offers a one-day Condensed Topical Thunder workshop, followed by Finding Your Thunder, a four-week deep study of picture books. Continue reading

Learning “Fast and Furiously” with Karen Boss—Part 1

by Lisa Rogers

Following the runaway success of her picture book courses over the last year, Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss brings her amazing energy this fall to The Writers’ Loft with four workshops, a one-day class, and a four-week course.

The first two workshops focus on craft, the third on the publishing process from submission to publication, and the fourth on idea development. Then—fasten your seat belts—Karen offers a one-day Condensed Topical Thunder workshop, followed by Finding Your Thunder, a four-week deep study of picture books. Continue reading

“Well, That Was Awkward” by Rachel Vail: A Discussion Guide For Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

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Rachel Vail puts a modern middle-grade twist on the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac in Well, That Was Awkward. Using text messages, Vail’s protagonist helps her best friend respond to a new love. Vail adds tension by giving her protagonist budding feelings for her friend’s new love interest, including a classic nasty mean girl antagonist, and providing parent drama. By studying Vail’s novel, writers can explore the opportunities presented by updating classic tales, the use of text messaging in middle grade novels, the effect of setting on story, and the balance of plot and subplot. Continue reading