Common Writing Missteps (And How To Overcome Them)

by Dave Pasquantonio

Authors (and Loft board members) Erin Dionne and Anna Staniszewski know a lot about writing. They’re published authors—and they’re creative writing teachers. In their recent Loft craft chat, “What We’ve Learned from Teaching Writing,” Erin and Anna talked about how their writing has strengthened their teaching careers, and how their careers have strengthened their writing.

They also talked craft. They’ve seen a lot of good writing from their students—and they’ve also seen the same issues crop up time and again.

Here are some common writing missteps that Erin and Anna discussed during their presentation, along with some strategies for overcoming them. Continue reading

Nailing Your First Five Pages: How to Hook Your Readers

by Julie Reich

“Send a one-page query letter, a synopsis, and the first five pages of your manuscript.”

If this statement rings a bell, you’ve encountered the submission guidelines for many agents and editors. A lot is riding on the beginning of your novel. Done well, your first five pages could invite requests for more. But if you don’t hook your readers, they’re unlikely to give your book a chance. Continue reading

Meet A Lofter: Audrey Day-Williams

by Sandra Budiansky

It’s the return of our Meet a Lofter series, where we go deep into the lives of our fellow writers. This time we’re talking to the very funny picture book author Audrey Day-Williams. You will find Audrey at many Writers’ Loft workshops and classes.If you happen to see Audrey around the Loft, make sure you say hi! Continue reading

Mapping Out Your Writing Life

by Allison Pottern Hoch

It’s the beginning of the year and everything feels fresh and possible. Whether you’re still chipping away at a work-in-progress, starting something new, or staring down the lane at future publication dates, your writing life lies open before you.

But the wide-open possibility of an entire year doesn’t always jibe with reality—work, deadlines, kids, travel, housekeeping, health, pets. What has worked for me is mapping out a mix of fixed and flexible goals. This helps me have plan, self-motivate, and stay nimble as new opportunities present themselves. Continue reading

Full Speed Ahead—Write Faster, Write More!

by Dave Pasquantonio

Sometimes the words come easily—and sometimes they don’t. We writers know exactly what it feels like to want to write more, to want to write faster, but the muse is not cooperating.

But we can’t always blame the muse. There are actions we writers can take to make the words flow faster.

Anna Staniszewski led a recent craft chat at The Writers’ Loft, “Write Faster—Write More!” She gave the enthusiastic attendees exactly what they were looking for—methods and insights to help us get those words out. Continue reading

Where Do Ideas Come From?

by Sandra J. Budiansky

Is there anything better than coming up with a brilliant idea and then sitting down and writing a best seller? Probably not, but that doesn’t usually happen. Many writers struggle to come up with an interesting book topic. On October 11th, Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss presented the Writers’ Loft workshop Idea Development, and When To Let Go, and it led to a lively and inspiring conversation. 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 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