On Writing and Publishing

Want to write a book and don’t know where to begin? Here you will find help from our editor and much-published author John Coyne. Plus information about getting your work into print.

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Tom Spanbauer (Kenya 1969-71 ) Teaches Dangerous Writing
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Well, What Do You Think Of My Novel?
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Your Novel Needs a Structure; You Need a Structure
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Talk less, Write more
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Novel Writing 101–Point of View # 2
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Novel Writing 101–What Genre Is Your Novel? #1
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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #11
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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #10
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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel # 9
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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #8

Tom Spanbauer (Kenya 1969-71 ) Teaches Dangerous Writing

The sixth Poets & Writers Live event was held at the Pacific Northwest College of Art’s Mediatheque Theater on October 17, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. The editors of many of the area’s presses and literary magazines joined the editors of Poets & Writers Magazine to explore the art of writing and the business of independent publishing. One of the speakers was Tom Spanbauer (Kenya 1969-71), author of Faraway Places, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon, In The City of Shy Hunters, Now Is the Hour, and, most recently, I Loved You More (Hawthorne Books, 2014) winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award. He presented a talk on Dangerous Writing, an innovative approach to writing that forms the basis of the workshop he has been teaching in his basement classroom in Portland for years. Dangerous Writing, Tom says, “is to go to parts of ourselves that we know exist but try to ignore–parts that are sad, . . .

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Well, What Do You Think Of My Novel?

At some point you’ll want to ask “someone” to read your novel while it is still in manuscript. This might be your partner or a friend who loves to read, or one of those strangers in your writing class. When that time comes, I want you to recall the exchange between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald when Hemingway asked F. Scott to read his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. Fitzgerald did, and then wrote a letter to Ernie. This was in 1926. Fitzgerald suggested to Hemingway that he drop the first two chapters, characterizing the novel’s opening as “careless and ineffectual.” Fitzgerald then went on to write in his letter to Hemingway: “About this time, I can hear you say, ‘Jesus this guy thinks I’m lousy, & he can stick it up his ass for all I give a Gd Dm for his ‘criticism’. But remember this is . . .

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Your Novel Needs a Structure; You Need a Structure

Your Novel Needs a Structure You Need a Structure The hardest part about writing a novel is writing a novel. Now there’s a declarative sentence! But it’s so true. To write a novel you need a structure: a beginning and middle and end. Characters. Plot. Scenes. Events. But more importantly you need a frame for the length of your book on which you can hang your story: the action, characters, metaphors, plot twists, and drama. Think of your novel as a room you have to measure with a long industrial ruler, one of those big, fat ones carpenters carry and whip out of their pockets like an old fashioned six shooter. That’s your plan. Your focus. Your design. That is how you will tell your tale. You will measure the scenes and incidents, the drama and the dialogue and make sure everything fits. That’s your plan for writing your novel. . . .

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Talk less, Write more

I was reading recently that while less people are reading, books themselves are getting longer. James Finlayson at Vervesearch analyzed more than 2,500 bestsellers list and found that the average number of pages in a book has increased by 25 percent in the last 15 years. Books published today have on average about 80 pages more than they did in 1999. According to The Guardian “The first five years of Booker-winning novels average out at around 300 pages, but even taking into account Julian Barnes’s 2011 triumph with his 160-page novella The Sense of an Ending, the last five years of Booker laureates weigh in at an average of 520 pages. This year’s winner was brief only in name: Marlon James’s 700-page A Brief History of Seven Killings.”

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Novel Writing 101–Point of View # 2

Novel Writing 101 This short series of blogs will be on writing your novel. All of you who were smart enough to major in business or international affairs or science while in college now have a chance to take an on-line creative writing course. If you are thinking of writing a novel, here’s a quick course (for no credits) on how you might go about writing your book. Point of View Welcome back to Novel Writing 101 I want to talk about the Point of View for your Novel. “Point of view” is a term that refers to the relationships between the storyteller-you–the story, and the reader. A story can be told basically from three different points of view – first person, second person or third person. Many writers are inclined to have a narrator tells his or her own story in the first person. Think of J. D. Salinger’s . . .

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Novel Writing 101–What Genre Is Your Novel? #1

Novel Writing 101 Session One This short series of blogs will be on writing your novel. Over the next few weeks, I’ll post Novel Writing 101, blogs on writing and publishing your novel. All of you who were smart enough to major in business or international affairs or science while in college now have a chance to take an on-line creative writing course. If you are thinking of writing a novel, here’s a quick course ( no credits, but it is free!) on how you might go about writing your book. We will begin with What Genre Is Your Novel? What Genre Is Your Novel? We’re all drawn to certain genres. In fact, some of us only read one type of novel. What are the books that you read? There are basically two types of fiction when it comes to novels: Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction. We’re going to focus . . .

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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #11

The # 11-Key Step: This extra step is like the 19th hole for golfers. You’re back in the bar at the club house going over your score and declaring if you had made a couple of putts on the front nine, or if that wedge on the par- 5 hadn’t  checked up below the hole on 17…. why instead of 87, you could have posted a 72 or 73. That’s golf. That’s writing a novel. So, with your first draft finished, push back from the computer and pour yourself a drink and think: “Now who’s going to play my protagonist in the movie they’ll make of my book?” Let your mind wander….. will it be??????

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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #10

The # 10 Key Step: Imposing a structure on your book. When I was writing my first published novel, The Piercing, I imposed a structure on the plot that complemented the religious overtones of the book. As a specific time frame for my story I chose the 40 days of Lent. I then divided the book into 40 chapters, one for each day. This structure enabled me to pace the story while always having an overview of where the plot was going. You will be surprised that even an artificial structure, like a scaffolding to a building, will help you write your book. You can discard the building blocks later, if you want, but the device will help you write your novel. For example, if you want to write a novel that takes place all within twenty-four hours, you have that security of a structure to pace the story but . . .

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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel # 9

The # 9 Key Step: The chapters of your book need to gain momentum and each chapter needs to be “larger” than the previous one. Think of your chapters as rooms in a building in which each space that one enters is larger than the previous one, and you, as the author, are leading a tour. The readers must sense that as they read they are making progress: learning, and understanding more and more about the characters and the situation. Remember also that characters do not operate in a vacuum. Their actions usually involve other people, and these interactions are what make up scenes. A single scene or a telling description can be a building block for constructing a unified story line. That means that you plot and your characters have to grow and evolve. This happens in two ways: their actions and their outlook on life. Readers develop an . . .

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Ten Key Steps In Writing Your Novel #8

The # 8 Key Step: Commit yourself to a point of view early in your planning and stay with it. This enables your-and your readers-to get a footing in your story. “Point of view” is a term that refers to the relationship between the storyteller, the story and the reader. A story can be told from three different points of view–first person, second person or third person. Our natural inclination is to have a narrator who tells his or her own story in the first person. Think of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. A first person storyteller can also tell someone else’s story, as did Nick Caraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Other writers use the third-person point of view. There are various kinds of third person narrators. Two examples are. An omniscient storyteller who goes everywhere, knows everything, reveals what is in the minds of . . .

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