Characters in Fiction–The Letter C takes the Cake! Part 1

These blogs that lightly touch on the Wonderful Art of Fiction don’t presume to cover everything or examine all aspects in the depth they deserve. The Writers’ Table is highlighting the passionate, distinguishing attributes that separate fiction from so-called nonfiction. Knowing even some of these differences gives authors incentive/promotional tools for marketing our art. As we work our way through the acronym F-I-C-T-I-O-N, the letter C  has much to offer.

C is for Characters. Without characters, a story would be events, dates, and outcomes. In other words, the same as nonfiction and not very interesting. Characters bring a story to life and permit the Reader to engage with other real people. Many Writers prefer a character-driven storyline. How would a particular person act and react in a given set of circumstances?

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Fiction–The G-Rated “F-Word,” Part 2.

Gathered around The Writers’ Table last week we discussed two unique features found exclusively in Fiction and not in nonfiction. Feelings are central for the Writer and the Reader. Meanwhile the author’s adherence to authentic Facts(which we’ll discuss at length later on) remains every bit as important. No matter the genre, there’s nothing like the appeal of a well-written, enduring novel that offers entertainment with painless education on the side. The ideal reading experience is “curling up with a good novel,” not the latest How-to or Self-Help book.

Here are several more “F-words” that distinguish Fiction from its distant relative, nonfiction. 

F is for Fun: Not all Fiction is Fun, but most is. If it’s fun to write, then it’s usually enjoyable for the Reader too. Although there is intense work represented by the simplest story, all Writers find pleasure in their work. If we don’t find pleasure, it shows through. At present, certain “Big Name Authors” have ceased to write their own stories, relying on a name alone to sell their books. Maybe they’re not enjoying the writing process anymore. The astute Reader can always tell.                    

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The Wonderful Art of Fiction–the G-Rated “F-Word,” Part 1

In this new series of blog posts we’ll use the acronym F-I-C-T-I-O-N to help Readers and Writers view the traditionally accepted role of fiction in a new light. No matter the genre, there’s nothing like the appeal of a well-written, enduring novel that offers good entertainment with painless education on the side. The ideal reading experience is “curling up with a good novel,” not the latest How-to or Self-Help book.

Let’s examine the passion and aliveness that distinguishes fiction from so-called nonfiction. One Writer once described fiction as “real life with all the dull parts left out.” That’s a good beginning, but there’s even more to it.

F is for Feeling. For those of us with even one year of high school journalism, one dictum was drilled into our heads: “You must not allow feelings or opinions to intrude in your writing.” Unless you were lucky enough to write editorials, now known as Op-Eds in many periodicals, or even feature stories, your writing was deliberately sterile and devoid of feeling. Most nonfiction remains that way.

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Writing is All About Reading

Writing is all about Reading: My blog title should make sense and stand by itself, yet I’m sure that in the minds of many it does not. I’m proud to be an author and to claim many other authors as colleagues, but all of us were first and foremost voracious Readers. Furthermore, none of our writings—mine or that of my friends or even the Greats of all Time—would have existed beyond the moment of pen-to-paper had it not been for Readers.

My next several weeks of blog posts are directed to both Readers and Writers of Fiction. You Readers of nonfiction should stay tuned as well. Anything that we enjoy, we enjoy even more if we understand how and why it reaches us and touches us. Why does a certain kind writing have compelling power? Why do others not?

Readers and Writers are in this together. For Readers, you’ll enjoy understanding better why you like to read certain authors and genres as well as why you don’t like others. If you’re in a book club, you may find inspiration for stimulating discussions. As a bonus for Writers, you’ll learn how to reach those with the same passions that you write about….

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Myths, Legends, and more Misconceptions: Control

Control.  What I like about self-publishing is that I really want to be in control.  Yes, of course, that’s understandable. However, to control something—I mean actually control it—you must understand how it works, from Point A to Point Z.

Here’s an example. In my younger days, I was a fairly good horsewoman, both in English and Western saddle. Still, there were some horses that I couldn’t ride well. Each horse and each rider are different and good partnering/riding came from experience with a particular horse.  However, simply because I could ride most any single horse well, didn’t mean I could drive a wagon team of six horses.

And so it is with publishing. To control it, you must understand how each element of the process works. Sometimes, in our effort to “control” the process we actually undermine the success of the total project—in this case, our book. More on this later. [Read more...]

Myths, Legends, and Misunderstandings, Part 2

What follows over the next several blog posts is based on a compilation of queries I’ve received, usually away from my blog so as to guarantee anonymity (something which  I heartily respect). They’re problems people have shared with me while other parts of the post are based on personal experience. As much as I would like to, I will mention no specific names of publishers.  It’s just the ethical way to go.

I had my book e-formatted for $475. That must be a top-notch job—isn’t it? With what I paid for the service, it must be guaranteed high-quality.

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About Small Independent Traditional Publishers….

In an earlier post I mentioned a site that lists all the University Presses and Small Independent Traditional Publishers. What makes these a good choice is that you, the author, receive relatively more attention than you would with “The Big Six.”  One reader asked that I publish the link again, so here it is: Independent and University Presses.

“A Small Independent Traditional Publisher.” What exactly does that mean? How small is small? We’ve discussed them before as a good option. Newer authors will find out the hard way that the words “small independent traditional publisher” can mean just about anything! More experienced published authors should be more informed in advance and hopefully share their experiences with their colleagues.  [Read more...]

The Mythical Agent and The Book Tour

Agents exist, so that’s not the mythical part. The myth exists in the minds of writers, especially those who have written (or have almost written) a first novel, that as soon as they type the words “The End” an agent will swoop in like a magical fairy and—presto!—with a wave of a wand, that writer and his/her book will become famous.

Next, of course, your agent will arrange a booksigning tour for you….

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Managing Manners on the Internet

Did I hear a groan out there, echoing across cyberspace? Another post about cyber-bullying or anonymous negative posts?  I wish it were that simple… but it’s not.

This is a more touchy matter, because it involves professional expectations and the need to change our behavior and that of others.  As an author how do you ask for what you want and need in a professional manner? How do you encourage others to give back in return, earning you respect as an author?

How you implement these suggestions is a personal choice. You’ll fashion requests in your own style, communicating with others in a way that’s comfortable for you—but reaching out and teaching others you must. As we’ve discussed in previous posts at The Writers’ Table, success and recognition does not simply happen, you must be actively involved.

We’re writers. To a certain extent we’re loners, at least while we’re at work. Borrowing from C. Hope Clark, who offers excellent blog posts at and is also the author of the highly acclaimed novel, Lowcountry Bribe, recently wrote: “Writing is our voice; the page should be our podium.” What all writers dread is the silence. The silence of no questions or even comments.

If you’re an author who has published just for the heck of it and/or you really don’t care about your friends and colleagues who are fine authors as well, then you won’t need to click on the “More button,” because a short course in Etiquette and Professionalism for authors will follow, touching on elements that stand at the heart of marketing you[Read more...]

If You Want to Really Stand Out

 Standing Out Even More….

If you want to stand out from all the others, those 700,000-plus print books that are published each year and the 30,000-plus titles uploaded to e-publishers each month, you will need to work at it.

Today I’ll be using some material borrowed from one of my favorite web sites, Jerry Simmons’ The newsletter from this former NY publishing executive is posted approximately every two weeks and contains a wealth of good, solid advice.

 If you’re going to stand out, many of your decisions must be made before you even decide who to publish with.  Your choices are that critical and will effect everything that follows. [Read more...]