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The Shift

by Bill Kenower

This month in Author we are featuring interviews with two non-fiction authors, both of whom, I believe, are carrying a useful and timely message. 

Daniel Pink’s book Drive takes a scientific look at motivation. What he found, lo and behold, was that people are ultimately less motivated by money and safety than they are by an internal desire for mastery and progress. Sound familiar? While his book is aimed theoretically at the business world, I chose to interview Daniel because I felt his work and all that he has learned is directly applicable to writers. Writing is all about motivation, and the more you understand the source of that motivation, the better your work will be, and the happier you will be doing it. more...

 
               
               
Your Story Needs a Hook, but Your Characters Are the Bait

by Jason Black

Ask anyone in the publishing industry—agents, editors, sales reps—and they’ll all agree your novel must open with a strong hook.  You'll never escape the slushpile without one. If you ask them what that means, you'll probably get an answer like, “It has to pull readers right in, grab them by the shirt collar, and make them want to read the next page.”

Translated into advice you can actually use, here's what they're trying to tell you: A great hook shows character through conflict more...

It's Not OK 

by Cherie Tucker

We’ve talked about this one before, but it was early in the life of this magazine, so you may not have seen it, or you may be one of the willful who thought that since the language is always changing, you didn’t need to believe me.  Let me repeat: all right is two words.  Just like all wrong.

I bring this to you again because I’ve been reading a bestseller that is set in the early 60s.  The author has a smash hit and weaves a terrific tale.  But on nearly every page is the word alright.  And every time it see it, I’m yanked out of the story.  I am a voracious reader and love to be transported to times and places by deftly chosen prose.  Authors usually do meticulous research to avoid spell-breaking anachronisms, but they may not be as aware that such anachronisms exist in our language.  I don’t want King Arthur to say “OK.”   It is because the language is always changing that writers—especially those who write of non-contemporary periods—must know what the language changed from.  And when. 
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Dispatches From The Publishing Front

   
   

What’s My Genre, Anyway?

by Erin Brown

One of the main questions I am often asked by first time authors is, “How do I define my genre?” I always think it’s incredibly obvious until I realize that perhaps I take genre definitions for granted because I spent so long in the publishing business. So I’m going to include an easy guide for picking your genre. Sure, it’s a bit tongue and cheek, but it’s definitely true as well.  

Autobiography/Memoir: You wrote this book, about your life. If a person with a typewriter and/or laptop has been following you around for years (with or without your knowledge) and has now written a book about your life, that is a biography

Mystery: Also known as the detective novel, the characters in this book run (or walk) around trying to track down vital information, with the final puzzle piece usually revealed in the climax. You can also call this the ol’ whodunit. I personally like the term whodunit because it’s more fun to say.  more...

   
               
               
   

That’s So Yesterday:
The Perils of Backstory

by James Thayer

The literary agent Donald Maass says, “The number one mistake I see in manuscript submissions is a failure to put the main conflict in place quickly enough.  In fact, it is the primary reason I reject over 90 percent of the material I receive.” 

A chief culprit: backstory.  Too much backstory too early is a manuscript prospect-killer.  Nothing contained later in a manuscript can overcome backstory delivered too early because agents and editors won’t read beyond the backstory.  more...

 

   

To Teach or Not to Teach

by
Laura Yeager

A good way to bring in extra money as a writer (or if you make enough money, to support yourself while you write) is to teach writing. I've been teaching for 25 years.

I'm not suggesting that everyone who writes can be a writing teacher. There are some basic requirements.

First of all, for a writer to become a writing teacher, he must have a basic knowledge of writing. This includes knowing grammar backward and forward, knowing the elements of the genre of writing he’s trying to create, knowing what makes a piece good, and, of course, knowing how to get his work published.

Then, he must have some substantial writing credits to his name. In other words, he must have proven to the world that his work is fine enough to be publishable in legitimate places. 
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Oh, Let Go

by Jennifer Paros

The other day I was playing with our cat Lou and because he is still relatively new to me (we got him about a month ago), I found myself studying him. What I noticed as I watched him play, first tracking some string and then a small toy, is that every time he’d catch what he was after, he would soon let it go.  Because if he were to continue holding on, the fun would be over and the game done.  Letting go of his hold was clearly critical so the next thing could happen.  

I’ve never really liked the expression “Let go”, even though I know that as a directive it’s top of the line.   My problem has been a bothersome voice in my head that says, “Can’t I just control my way to the outcome I want?  That would be so much more comfortable.” But the truth is, holding on always causes stress and is nothing but uncomfortable.  And just as Lou has discovered, it leads to the end of fun. more...

 
               
   
   

 
     

 

 

 

 
       

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