It’s All in a Name — Finding Your Protagonist

By Pat Sollner

I’d had trouble with my protagonist, Katya, all through the long nights last winter. My fellow Incubees puzzled over her motivations. Worse, I had a hard time seeing her clearly. I’d call her by her nicknames, Katka, Katyoosha, and Katenka, but she’d just take  her place on the page, arms folded across her chest, lips tight. I opened writing books, did one exercise after another to find out about her, and even discovered her hidden desires, but when I put her in a scene where she could act on those desires, she went back to the folded arms position.

If only I’d been superstitious, I would have written with a lucky pen or a particular pencil in a special notebook. I could have written only at dawn or dusk, or ordered my study according to the principles of Fung Shui. But I wasn’t superstitious. Read More →

Friday Feast: Rules, Social Media, Ideas and Instinct


Recently, I told a friend that I’d spill all my social media and writing secrets in exchange for a steak dinner. She told me that was worth TWO steak dinners.

You can save some dough and calories by reading posts from these actual experts instead. *


blood-dropZadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing by Maria Popova. This has been out there a while, but it can’t hurt to get some guidance from someone who is in a position to give guidance. ** Read More →

Whatever Happened to Foreplay?


By Michael Nolan

This from Writer’s Digest: “How To Start a Novel Right.” (June 6, 2013)

Including backstory in the opening pages is the same as saying to the reader, “Wait a minute—hold on. Before I tell you the story, first there’s something about these characters and this situation that you need to know.”

Ha! Don’t buy it! They mean you should open your novel with a Big Boffo scene guaranteed to hold the readers’ attention with “action.” Reach out and grab ‘em by the short hairs, the reasoning goes, so the reader, having ingested a full two pages from Amazon’s “Look inside” section, can’t resist hitting the Add to Cart button. Of course, the problem is far bigger than Amazon (if such a thing is cosmologically possible). Big Boffo signals a regrettable dimming of imagination and attention on the part of the reader; worse, that of the writer. “I want to know the story now!” insists the reader in the WD projection. “The folks have had me on Adderol since fourth grade, and I’m not about to slow down for anything as lame as characterization or nuance or any of that other stuff.” Read More →

Everything I’ve Learned about Writing I’ve Learned from Soap Operas

Go Figure: Musings from the Mind of Rob Wilstein

Like Sands Through the Hourglass, So are the Days of our Lives.

So true. So true. And so insightful. When you think about those grains of sand, dropping, one by one, inexorably, through the hourglass, we mortals unable to act, paralyzed in our efforts to turn the glass over, reverse the march of time, reset the clock on the incessant parade of the days of our lives, you discover the power of cliche.

Such too is the power of the soap opera, the bastardized descendant of Shakespeare, the daytime poor relation of Breaking Bad and The Wire, a form of entertainment developed to sell soap to bored housewives, to novelize the trials and tribulations of small town America in the most banal manner possible. Read More →

Friday Feast: Ratings, Addicts, Classics and Bad Words

Brooklyn99Insider-Terry Crews-Eating Packing Peanuts

Mmm, urgh, enm. So many goodies out there on the interwebs this week, friends. Feast upon some of our favorite links for the week!

blood-dropBook Rating Categories That Should Exist (Because Star Ratings Can Be Useless) by Natalie Meyer. My 5-star book ratings fall into the category “You Probably Think I’m Weird for Liking This.”
Read More →

An Interview with Jennie Wood, Author of
A Boy Like Me

By Marc Foster

Dead Darlings contributor Jennie Wood has given us an insider’s view on the process of publishing her debut novel, A Boy Like MeJennie will celebrate the launch of A Boy Like Me at Machine in Boston on September 4, 2014, at 7:00 p.m.

Recently, she spoke with us about A Boy Like Me, which is also the first novel to emerge from GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program.

Read More →

The Goals of Writing from Modest to Spectacular


Associated Press

By Belle Brett

In one of my (as yet unpublished) novels, two best friends in their middle years set out to write their own novel to solve their respective problems. Aside from a general agreement that the end product will be a work of fiction, their external goals for their writing are very different. Kate hopes that the book will solve her debt problems; Eliza sees it as a way to win respect from her difficult-to-please father and to show up her high school nemesis, who is a successful romance novel writer. Eliza is more interested in producing a literary work, whereas Kate envisions a best seller without great regard to its quality. Their contrasting goals for their joint project naturally produce some conflict (and isn’t that what keeps a novel sizzling?). Read More →

Friday Feast: Twitter, Diversity and a FREE Book!

cookie monster
Friend of Dead Darlings, Crystal King, taught us all about Feedly. Now we have a ton of articles in our feeds and feel compelled to share them in bite-sized links of writing goodness.

Grab some coffee, a yogurt, a Go-Gurt or whatever it is you like to scarf down during breakfast and/or lunch* and feast on our favorite links for the week.** Read More →

How Novels Are Like Bad Eggs: Learning from Nature’s Mistakes

chicken_blogBy Mandy Syers

If you keep chickens and a novelist about the homestead then you know how similar egg laying is to novel writing.

In a chicken an egg is formed over a 25-hour period. The yolk is released from the hen’s ovary, membranes and the albumen (the whites) are added, and finally the shell is put on, whereupon she lays the egg.

The novel, which can take up to 25 years to complete, undergoes a similar process as the writer transforms a vague notion into a published book for readers to crack open and enjoy. Read More →

An Interview with Diana Renn, Author of
Latitude Zero


By Marc Foster

Fans of Young Adult fiction will be pleased to hear that Diana Renn has released a new novel, Latitude Zero, which sends Boston-based protagonist Tessa to Ecuador to investigate a mysterious death. Diana took time out from her launch to speak with Dead Darlings about her new project. Read More →

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