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Results 1 - 25 of 125
1. How do you name your characters?


This question comes from reader Puneet Agrawal, who is wondering about a seemingly simple and yet quite complicated and important question: How do you name your characters?

Where do you draw your inspiration? What's your process? Do they just come to you or do you spend time brainstorming? Do you draw upon any resources, like baby name books or census data?

I'm personally partial to naming important characters after coffee drinks. What about you?

Art: The Gardener by Paul Cezanne

0 Comments on How do you name your characters? as of 8/27/2014 1:49:00 PM
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2. Which book do you wish were turned into a movie?


Over at io9, Esther Inglis-Arkell ranked ten classic YA books she wished were turned into movies.

I wasn't actually familiar with those, but it definitely got me thinking. Which book do you wish were turned into a movie?

This is a tricky, tricky choice for me. On the one hand, classics like The Great Gatsby and Moby-Dick are difficult to transition to the screen, which gives me pause about picking something too literary. On the other hand, who knew that The Godfather would have been so elevated in Francis Ford Coppola's hands?

It turns out that some of my initial choices are already in the works, including Child 44, which is currently in production, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, which is rumored to be considered for a TV show, and Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, also in development.

Thus, I would have to go with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. What about you?

(And no, you're not allowed to answer "my own!")

Art: The Photographer Sescau by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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3. Are you optimistic about the future of books?


Something strange has been happening lately: not many of my friends are reading books.

It has happened gradually, almost imperceptibly, but the number of my friends who are reading is on the decline.

Some of this may be my age. Now that I'm approaching my mid thirties, a lot of my friends are in baby zone and are using their rare spare time to sleep.

But a lot of people I know have switched to reading more articles, they binge watch Netflix in their free time, and even smart thinking people don't feel the need to be catching up with the latest hot novel.

I have been optimistic about books for a long time. And I don't see reason to change my tune.

But sometimes... I wonder. With tablets and electronics everywhere, with the Internet evermore at our fingertips... will people still read books like they used to? Will our attention spans survive?

I hope they will. I love movies, I love video games, I love television, but nothing can compare to the emotional depth of reading a book.

No movie can give us the last page of The Great Gatsby. No actual video game is as fun as
reading Ready Player One. The TV version of Game of Thrones is a lot of fun, but the longer it goes on the larger the books loom.

You know this. I know this. But are people going to keep reading?

What say you?

Art: A Favourite Author by Poul Friis Nybo

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4. How do you know when to give up on a project?


We've all been there.

Whether it's a heady ten page burst that we realize is terrible the next day or an agonizing decision to put a novel in the draw after years of work, every writer has to give up on some projects. The reasons vary, the amount of pain differs, but we all have to decide that enough is enough.

But how do you know when you've reached that point?

Or, as longtime reader Collin Myers puts it:
I just wonder, at what point do you have to kind of sit back and say, "This isn't going to work. It's not going to turn out the way you envisioned it."
Have you reached this point with a project? How did you know? Did you ever end up regretting turning back?

Art: Jeune homme à la fenêtre by Gustave Caillebotte

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5. Do you talk about your characters as if they're real people?


I'm probably in the minority on this one. 

Sometimes writers talk about their characters as if they're real people. And I don't mean as in, "So and so did such and such," I mean, they talk about their characters as if they are people with their own agency that the author has little control over.

You'll hear things like, "I had big plans for what was going to happen, but then my character Suzy had other ideas!" or "Every time I sat down to write my novel, Suzy just made me take her to the craziest places."

On the one hand, I get it. It can be sort of strange to write a character whose internal logic you learn to obey. You might plan your novel ahead, but when you actually get down to writing it, you know your character's motivations so well you realize your previous plans don't make sense. It can feel like a character is gradually gaining control over your novel.

On the other hand, who is writing this novel?? Who are these characters that are outside of these writers' head and outside of their control? 

Confession: it kiiiiiiiiiiiind of weirds me out. 

Am I alone on this one or are there others out there like me? 

Art: An Eunuch's Dream by Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ

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6. What's your biggest distraction from writing?


When my sister told me about the game 2048 I knew I was in trouble.

Most writers I know have an addictive personality. In order to be a writer you kind of have to. If you're the type of person who doesn't feel compulsively like you absolutely have to finish something you may not have the type of drive it takes to

I'm fortunate that I'm not prone to substance abuse, but I am very susceptible to games. When I start, I feel like I have to finish.

2048 is right up my alley in a really bad way. It is a mental puzzle, it's simple, it has an endless challenge. I lost a lot of time playing that game, and yes, the image above is a screenshot of my high score (*shakes fist at sister*).

Games are my biggest source for distraction. What's yours?

0 Comments on What's your biggest distraction from writing? as of 5/28/2014 2:09:00 PM
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7. What are your writing superstitions?


Writers can be a superstitious lot.

A coffee mug that confers special powers. An exacting but necessary pre-writing routine that must be adhered to before sitting down to write. A snack that is crucial for proper brain functioning.

What are your writing superstitions?

0 Comments on What are your writing superstitions? as of 5/21/2014 1:26:00 PM
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8. How do you plan to publish your work-in-progress?


So. I'm curious if the times they are a-changing.

A year ago, I asked a simple question: how do you plan to publish your work-in-progress?

And now, inspired my long-running poll about buying e-books, I'm asking agin. Do you think the times have changed? Are more people willing to go straight to self-publishing? Are people reconsidering the benefits of traditional publication?

We shall see. Poll below. If you're reading this on a feed reader or via e-mail, please click through to see it.


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9. Do you read multiple books simultaneously or one at a time?


There are two types of readers and two types of readers only.

One type has several different books going. They might have one on their nightstand and one in their backpack, another stashed at work for lunchtime reading and who knows where else. I don't understand these people. They have a wild book love life.

Others, like me, cannot cheat on our current books. We are book monogamists, faithful to the book that currently has our attention even when we're apart and there are tempting new books in front of us.

Which type are you? Do you like having several books going or do you read one at a time?

Art: Interesting Story by Laura Muntz Lyall

0 Comments on Do you read multiple books simultaneously or one at a time? as of 4/30/2014 12:31:00 PM
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10. What was the inspiration for the title of your WIP?


Titles are tricky.

A great title can catapult a book, a bad title, well, the worst are probably just dull.

How did you think of the title of your WIP or last project?

My current WIP is untitled, but I named Jacob Wonderbar after my favorite coffee drink at Philz. Coffee wins again.

What about you?

Art: Don Quixote in the library by Adolf Schrödter

0 Comments on What was the inspiration for the title of your WIP? as of 4/23/2014 2:11:00 PM
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11. What Are the Best Resources for Self-Publishers?


So. I'm embarking on a project to self-publish a Guide to Writing a Novel.

What are the best resources for self-publishers? What are your favorite blogs, message boards, and books?

Art: The bookbinder by Anonymous

71 Comments on What Are the Best Resources for Self-Publishers?, last added: 4/8/2013
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12. Which Writers Most Influence Your Work?


No writer lives in a vacuum. We all take inspiration from the people who have come before us. We are moved some of their best ideas, we all start through imitation before we graduate to originality, and it's important to recognize and honor the people who paved the way for your work.

This is an important process, and even as we mature as writers and as human beings we continue to be shaped by those around us and whose work inspires us, just as I've cribbed social media lessons from Tahereh Mafi and The Rejectionist even as they've become real-life friends.

I've asked before who in your life most influenced you on the way but who are the writers who have shaped your work?

For me, it's Bill Watterson, Douglas Adams and Roald Dahl.

Art: Ein Maler bei der Arbeit by Paul Cézanne

58 Comments on Which Writers Most Influence Your Work?, last added: 12/13/2012
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13. Which Writer Do You Most Want to Be Friends With?


Let's face it, there are some cool authors out there. Not only do they write awesome books, but they seem like they might be extremely fun to hang out with.

Which author do you most want to befriend?

I've been fortunate to actually become friendly with some writers I admire, but one author I would like to meet is China Miéville, in part because his books are amazing, in part because of interviews like this.

China, if you're reading this, let's go bowling sometime!

What about you?

Art: "Gute Freunde" - Hermann Kern

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14. What Do Writers Owe the People in Their Lives?


Ta-Nehisi Coates recently featured an interview with William Faulkner that naturally had an incredible array of quotable material, but which focused in part on the responsibility an author has to their art.

The meat:
The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies.
Faulkner comes from the kill, maim, dismember school of artistry, where the work is paramount and the lives that are affected are of secondary concern.

Easy to say. Not so much to do.

Many writers I know, especially memoirists or those who pull material from their real lives, grapple with the morality of affecting personal relationships in order to put forth their writing. When I heard him speak a few weeks back, Jonathan Franzen recounted how he hesitated using a thinly veiled version of his brother in The Corrections.

How should a writer navigate this tricky path? Does the work of art ultimately reign supreme over the feelings of the people who may be hurt in the process of creating a book? What should an author be prepared to sacrifice? What do writers owe the other people in their lives?

Photograph of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten. Please see the Wikimedia Commons page for information on the Vechten estate's requests for reproducing his photographs.

51 Comments on What Do Writers Owe the People in Their Lives?, last added: 8/1/2012
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15. Should Agents Be Worried?


Last month, agent Rachelle Gardner posted about supposed fear among literary agents. The title: Are agents running scared?

No doubt the publisher industry is changing quickly. While the pace of e-book change may be slowing, self-publishing is continuing its ascent and the role of agents is ever-evolving.

So are agents going away? Should they be worried?

In her post, Rachelle concluded that even if the specific roles of agents change, the ones who are flexible will adapt right along with the industry. I've elsewhere argued that agents are far more than just gatekeepers and will negotiate with whomever is left to still negotiate with even when the gates are down.

But maybe the change will be more drastic than that. Could agents disappear entirely, or at least morph into an unrecognizable form? Are their days numbered?

What do you think?

Art: Self-portrait - Pieter van Laer

90 Comments on Should Agents Be Worried?, last added: 6/16/2012
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16. Is There a Self-Publishing Bubble?


There has been a lot of talk lately about a self-publishing "bubble." There was the Guardian article in January, a response by Melville House, and the idea has been percolating around the Internet ever since.

Having emerged from a decade of bubbles in our economy, it may be natural to see some parallels between the self-publishing revolution and a new gold rush. There were a few early people striking the mother lode, a rush of excitement, and now it's off to the races.

So is it a bubble? Is all the initial enthusiasm about self-publishing going to wear off? Is the bubble going to burst?

Shifting Attention

There's another parallel that comes to mind, and that's the blog bubble. A couple of years ago you weren't a living breathing human if you didn't have a blog. Everyone was blogging, everyone was commenting, blogging was the way people connected with each other and promoted their work. It was new and fun and exciting.

Now... not so much. There are definitely still people in the blogging game (as you well know since you're reading one right now), but blogging has seemingly peaked, replaced by activity on other social media.

Is the same thing going to happen with e-publishing? Will people put their book out there, struggle to build a following, and then have their attention diverted elsewhere?

What's Permanent About Writing

I say no. We're not in a bubble. This is not a temporary blip.

There are sooo many people who are writing books out there. There even more who want to write a book and believe they have a book in them. There are thousands upon thousands of unpublished manuscripts out there and even more in progress.

And it's not new. People have been writing books for years.

Blogging was a blip. Books are far more central to our culture and are far, far more glamorized than blogs. Lots of people want to grow up and be a famous author. Fewer want to be a famous blogger.

And the ease of entry into the self-publishing game is only getting smoother. Right now it's still somewhat challenging to make your book available in all channels, but those barriers are coming down. There is a massive supply of books in the pipeline.

Get used to the self-publishing boom. We're just getting started.

Art: Soap Bubbles by Jean Siméon Chardin

60 Comments on Is There a Self-Publishing Bubble?, last added: 3/10/2012
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17. Can You Write With Noise?


I'm not the only writer who has found that a low level of noise can be very conducive for productivity. A few months back in The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf had an entire roundup devoted to exploring why so many people find themselves more productive in coffee shops.

His reasons jive with mine, including there being something about a certain level of distraction, working against closing time, and being out of the office making it feel less like work (he neglected to mention one massive reason: caffeine).

Personally a change of scenery can work wonders, but even when I'm home I like to have just the right amount of noise, which usually comes in the form of a sporting event droning in the background. But I've also known writers who lock themselves in a closet and must have complete and utter silence.

Which kind of writer are you? Do you like having a bit of noise or do you need to block everything out?

Art: "His Master's Voice" - Francis Barraud

84 Comments on Can You Write With Noise?, last added: 2/25/2012
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18. Do You Plan to Bypass the Traditional Publishing Industry Entirely?


In a recent guest post at J.A. Konrath’s blog, Barry Eisler laid out numerous reasons why he no longer foresees pursuing traditional publication.

And in the comments section on this blog, I’ve noticed a definite uptick in the number of people who are questioning the wisdom of querying agents and trying for traditional publication at all, whether because of the length of time it takes, the fear of losing control, e-book royalties, and many other factors.

So. For all you writers out there: Do you plan to pursue traditional publication or are you going self-publishing all the way?

Poll below, please click through if you’re reading via e-mail or a feed reader.

88 Comments on Do You Plan to Bypass the Traditional Publishing Industry Entirely?, last added: 11/18/2011
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19. When Did You Know You Wanted to Be a Writer?


When did you know you wanted to become a writer? Was it a childhood dream? Something you arrived at kicking and screaming? Was there a particular trigger when you thought to yourself, "You know, what I really want to be doing is staring at a computer screen on my nights and weekends, inventing worlds and stuff"?

I came to the writing game pretty late. I had taken some short story classes in college, wrote a screenplay in my early 20's, but never really thought I'd write a novel. I was 25 before I started writing in earnest, on a novel that didn't work out, and I was 27 when I started JACOB WONDERBAR.

What about you? When did you know you wanted to write?

Art: "Woman Writing a Letter" by Frans van Mires

119 Comments on When Did You Know You Wanted to Be a Writer?, last added: 4/24/2011
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20. Do You Keep a Journal?

Promoted from the Forums (Background on Forum Promotion here)

By: CharleeVale

Do you keep a journal?

I don't mean the normal writer's journal, full of notes and ideas and bits of dialogue. I mean a 'dead diary', I did this, I did that journal. I've never been able to. Maybe because spending time writing that doesn't benefit one of my WIPs seems like a waste of time....

But I'm wondering if there are any of you that do, and how you find the time/motivation?

62 Comments on Do You Keep a Journal?, last added: 4/30/2011
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21. What Do You Wish You Had Known When You Started Writing?

"Retrato de Mariano Goya" - Francisco de Goya
Oh, to start writing again.

Such angst! Such vision! Such ambition!

What do you wish you had known when you started? What would you tell your younger writing self?

Mine is pretty simple. When I first started out I was very focused on the end result. I wish I would have known that whatever happens with any particular manuscript: It's all worth it.

What about you?

119 Comments on What Do You Wish You Had Known When You Started Writing?, last added: 7/1/2011
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22. How Does Real Life Inspire Your Writing?

"A Writer Trimming His Pen" - Jan Ekels
First, check out the amazing guest post by my friend Daniel José Older over at the Rejectionist's blog as he talks about how his job as an EMS medic in New York City inspires his writing. Not because of the stories he witnesses, but because of what he does and feels.

How does real life inspire your writing? What emotions do you channel into what you write? Even if you don't write memoir I'm guessing real life manages to find a way into your writing.

For me personally, real life couldn't seem farther away from a children's book novel about kids who blast off into space and have crazy adventures, but I still channel my doubts and frustrations into my novels. The kids obviously don't sit around wondering about what life is like for a children's book author, but I try and take what I'm feeling on a daily basis and it inevitably will seep into the cracks.

By the time it's passed through the plot of the Wonderbar novels it's almost imperceptible, but I think those layers add to the experience of the novel, even if the reader isn't aware of them.

What about you?

63 Comments on How Does Real Life Inspire Your Writing?, last added: 7/8/2011
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23. What Is the Strangest Thing You Have Ever Researched?

"Der Naturforscher" - Carl Spitzweg
One of the best parts of being a writer is the strange things you're forced to research. I was delving into some very bizarre flora and fauna over the weekend and learned way more than I ever thought I would about the climate of a very particular time period. (But I can't reveal which time because it would be a spoiler).

What's the strangest thing you've researched in the course of your writing?

This should be good.

143 Comments on What Is the Strangest Thing You Have Ever Researched?, last added: 7/22/2011
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24. Have You Ever Read a Self-Published Book?

"Capitvated" - Adolphe-Alexandre Lesrel
There is so much talk about self-published books in the writing-o-sphere.

But have you actually read one?

Poll below - please click through to the actual post if you're reading in a feed reader or via e-mail.

Also, your further thoughts requested in the comments section. Did you like the self-published book you read? Would you read another? Do you only read traditionally published books? Etc.

146 Comments on Have You Ever Read a Self-Published Book?, last added: 10/3/2011
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25. Are You Participating in NaNoWriMo?

It’s that time of year! Time for the ambitiously creative and the creatively ambitious to abandon their hobbies, social lives, family members, basic hygiene, and episodes of Modern Family (OK maybe not episodes of Modern Family), in order to pursue the ultimate goal:<