Tag Archives: craft tips

Friday’s Internet Goodies: The Canary Review

InternetGoodiesThe Canary Review is not just a review blog. The people who run it also provide editing services for a fee. They also provide craft tips on Fridays in their “Pitch Slap” series. So what you get with this site is a more professional take on the books they read, if that is what you are looking for.

The tagline to the site is: “We read it so you might not have to”, thus this is NOT a book promotion site. On the other hand, the reviewers do accept submissions from Indie authors as well as those publishing books via legacy publishers.

canarylogo21The Canary Review is most interested in receiving books that are YA, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, or Romance. They are no longer accepting Literary Fiction or Nonfiction.

To find their site, point your browser to: http://thecanaryreview.com/

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Monday Craft Tips #4: Show, not tell, part 3

This is the third in a series of craft tips about Show, not Tell. As you know (if you’ve studied the craft of writing), this is a popular saying among writing instructors. It means that writers should avoid long passages of narrative summary (descriptions and observations narrated in the authorial voice) and cut to the action. This piece of advice is not only hard to get right, it is also a huge problem for those writers who have a natural bent for narrative summary.

Today, I thought I would share three examples of Tells by that wonderful author
Jane Austen, the mistress of narrative summary. Telling the reader what to think is generally regarded as a no-no. Readers object to it, and it can lead to lazy writing. So how would you rate the following, all taken from Miss Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE?

Miss Bennet’s pleasing manners grew on the goodwill of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley; and though the mother was found to be intolerable, and the younger sisters not worth speaking to, a wish of being better acquainted with them was expressed towards the two eldest.

Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr. Darcy’s progress through his book as in reading her own, and she was perpetually either making some inquiry, or looking at his page. She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on. At length, quite exhausted by the attempt to be amused with her own book, which she had only chosen because it was the second volume of his, she gave a great yawn and said, “How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way!”

Elizabeth wrote the next morning to their mother, to beg that the carriage might be sent for them in the course of the day. But Mrs. Bennet, who had calculated on her daughters remaining at Netherfield till the following Tuesday, which would exactly finish Jane’s week, could not bring herself to receive them with pleasure before.

Notice that all of these passages are what I refer to as “Tells”, where the reader is told what to think, so the question becomes, did you mind being told what to think?

I think most readers find these passages charming and funny, and don’t mind at all. So how does RicePortraitJaneAustenMiss Austen get away with it?
First of all, notice that all these passages are written in a distinctive voice, they are not bland and boring bits of prose, they do not sound like something taken from a newspaper or report. What makes them so wonderful is that they have a spark to them, an attitude, a personality. This is the main reason, I believe, why agents are so eager to find voice when they look at manuscripts. Because they know that an author can get away with more tells if the writing is as glorious as this.
Secondly, notice how closely observed these observations are. They are not cliches, they are specific and concrete and they show off the personality of these characters.
As in all things to do with writerly craft, the question is, how much can you get away with before the reader notices or minds? I submit that any writer who does tells as well as Jane Austen does can get away with murder.


Image: The “Rice Portrait” of Jane Austen, done by Ozias Humphry R. A. in 1788, when Jane was 13 years old.

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Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL is a compendium of advice honed from Maass’ 30 plus years as an agent. This book is designed to help the novelist at any stage of her career write a breakout novel, by which Maass means a novel that gets onto the bestseller lists.

Even though this is a book written by a successful agent, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a book written for writers by a writer. Organized into eleven chapters, nine of those chapters are solid advice on craft. And the advice is intelligent and thoughtful. In a random flip through the book, I discovered this gem about the psychology of story telling:

“When an author pitches a great story premise, almost always the first question that spring to my mind (and I will bet to yours, too) is this: Could that really happen? It is an odd question. Fiction is not life. And yet for some reason most readers, me included, need to feel that the story we are being presented has some basis in reality. Why? The answer to that question lies in part in the psychology of storytelling, or rather story receiving. A work of fiction grips our imaginations because we care, both about the characters in the tale and about ourselves. To put it another way, we are concerned about the outcome of the story because what is happening to the characters could happen to us.”

This book is full of such gems. The best endorsement I can give of it is that my copy bristles with post-it flags. If you are a writer, or even an aspiring one, buy this book. Five stars.

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Tips from the Internet: How to create a ROUNDED character, and how to grab your reader’s emotions

Here are a couple of things I found on the internet:


  1. From Terrible Minds:  The most important thing you can do is make your reader FEEL something. To do that you must be
    1. An excellent liar.
    2. Someone who is at least mildly disturbed.
    3. Capable of thinking of profound evils and delirious virtues in equal measure.
    4. Willing to commit acts of overwhelming cruelty to invisible, non-existent people.
    5. Someone who had lots of imaginary friends as a child. And possibly as an adult.

To read more, click on this link:  http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/02/09/storyteller-as-puppetmaster/  FYI Chuck Wendig (who runs this site) had good advice, but a somewhat foul-mouthed. So be warned.


From Writer’s Digest: How do you create a well-rounded character? Vary the status of that character from scene to scene. You will find that your character reacts differently, and becomes more interesting in the process. To read more, click on this link:  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/how-to-raise-your-characters-above-the-status-quo



Do you have any tips you found on the internet you’d like to share? Feel free to drop a comment in the box below.


Have a wonderful week!


Image is taken from artsalive.lskysd.ca

This piece first appeared in the September newsletter. If you would like to read more such tips, or hear about how my progress on THWARTED QUEEN is going, please sign up for the newsletter by clicking on the appropriate link to the right.

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My Newsletter launches today!

I am really excited to announce the launch of my newsletter, a monthly ezine, titled HOW TO SPIN BOOKS INTO GOLD NEWSLETTER FOR THE BUSY SELF-PUBLISHER, which is coming out today!.  Now why would I do a newsletter, when I already do a blog? Because a newsletter allows me to talk in more depth about the things I discuss in my blog.




There are six sections to my newsletter.

  1. Most popular blog of the month, where I pick the most popular blog and add some updates exclusively for readers of my newsletter.
  2. How to NOT go insane: The Busy Self-Publisher, where I give tips on how to keep your head above water while trying to self-publish your book.
  3. Spinning Words into Gold, where I pass along craft tips that I’ve learned.
  4. Let’s Spin, where I give you a writing prompt and challenge you to write something creative to post on this blog.
  5. News from Cynthia, where I give you updates on my writing career.
  6. Leaves from my Evernote Notebook, where I pass along hot tips from the publishing industry, that I thought were so important I clipped them to my Evernote notebook


You will see that there are links to each of these sections at the top of each post, so you can skip to the parts you want to read. I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter, and if you have any comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. To sign up, click here:

Newsletter Subscription

Image: Alden.org

NOTE: Blogs & Websites to watch feature returns next week.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


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