Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Tips for fiction writers, plus some free writing resources

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EDITOR’S NOTE: When I originally wrote this article, Holly Lisle was offering the course I’ve recommended here. In mid-2011, she made the decision to get away from so much teaching to devote her time to fiction writing and independent publishing using Kindle and other electronic book formats. As a result, she began winding down sales of memberships to her course. I have not heard (as of mid-December 2011) exactly when she plans to end sales of her “How to Think Sideways” novel writing course. You are certainly welcome to visit her website and get the latest course information by clicking on appropriate links within this article. I THINK she was planning to stop taking new students sometime in 2012.

I want to give you my best tip for fiction writers today, along with some links and information to some very useful — and free — writing resources.

I want to strongly urge you fiction writers out there to take advantage of the greatest writing instruction course I’ve ever found. I’ve read a couple of Holly Lisle’s fantasy adventure novels, ones she wrote a number of years ago, so when I ran onto her website and looked it over, I knew immediately she had some good stuff to help me learn and to kick-start my fiction writing career. She has a wealth of writing resources throughout her website, and I settled on one of the major writing courses she has to offer — her “How to Think Sideways” training material for fiction writers. (You’ll find a banner advertising that course on the right-hand side of the page, and you can get immediate details by clicking on the linked course title in the previous sentence.)

If you’ve come around these parts regularly, you know my professional writing experience has been mostly religious journalism and newspaper copy editing. Long ago I had a few “how-to” articles and short humor pieces published in small magazines and regional publications. Committing an act of novel length, serious fiction is something I’ve always threatened to do.

Holly’s course crammed full of writing resources and writing tips of all sorts has challenged, guided, and inspired me to take serious steps down that road. I expect to have something good finished by the end of this summer.

‘Thinking sideways’ expands your writing resources by expanding your creativity

What, you may ask, does it mean to “think sideways”? Does it really mean anything, or is it simply a marketing ploy to sell these course materials? If you use the links I’ve furnished to look over the course, you’ll find Holly’s explanation of thinking sideways:

“Thinking Sideways is the process of clearing the deadwood out of your thinking, pulling your creativity front and center (even if you haven’t done a creative thing in thirty years), and unlocking your unique brilliance …”

Other writing resources and courses, to use a tired cliche, ask you to “think outside the box” — this course frees you to think outside, inside, and even completely apart from all the “boxes” you may be letting limit your writing. Holly’s highly targeted and fun course materials take you step-by-step through the process of discovering what you really want to write and how you can get it written. In her words:

“To begin with, as a writer, your gig is to write a novel that you and your Muse can be proud to call your own. Don’t write it because it’s what everyone else is writing, don’t write it because you think it’ll sell a million copies—write it because you love the story you’re telling, and tell that story to the best of your ability.”

Holly’s course offers writing resources that are very interactive. Buying the course gives you membership in a very active writing forum, with members ranging from experienced novelists to beginning fiction writers. You have the opportunity of sending questions and support requests directly to Holly Lisle herself via the helpdesk website and you can get help from many on the forum.

I think, as much as anything else, I’ve benefited greatly from the sense of fun and enthusiasm that runs all through the course and shows in all the materials and each lesson. It is a blast just to read and mull over the remarkable (and let me mention again, “fun”) insights Holly and the forum members bring to the whole fiction writing process.

I’ve been working through the course — did I mention you receive course lessons/modules on a regular basis over a 6 or 12 month period (your choice)? — and loving it. Course writing resources include written lessons, printable worksheets, mind-mapping exercises, and some really fun, fascinating videos to brighten your writing day and expand your thinking.

Assuming you can spare the cost of a couple of large pizza dinners a month, I urge you to sign up for “How to Think Sideways” and get some terrific writing tools and tips to jump start your fiction writing career.

Here are some excellent free writing resources

I urge you to take advantage of that wonderful writing course, and here are some free writing resources I ran onto courtesy of “Writer’s Digest” magazine. I receive frequent email updates and newsletters from the good folks at WD, and today’s email contained links to some free ebooks related to writing and the writing life. I already had two of them and have enjoyed using them. (The third one makes a perfect “segue” into an article I’m writing to share with you tomorrow concerning a terrific new publishing tool/opportunity I am starting to work with.)

In case the links I have to these ebooks fail, you can find a brief discussion of each with links to them at one of the Writer’s Digest staff blogs. There are five ebooks available there, but I am only highlighting the three that I find especially useful, with more a detailed discussion in the coming-soon-article of one of those. So here goes:

1. 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer. You want to get down to the fundamentals, the most basic of the basics? How about a book of 70 solutions to mistakes all of us writers make that begins with “1. Not Starting”?? I love this little ebook. It gives practical solutions to the fundamental causes that keep us from writing or stop us from finishing our writing. Under that first point, for example, he suggest that you start your novel anywhere: You don’t need a complete outline or a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. You really don’t even need to begin with the novel’s first sentence You can start anywhere, then work your way backwards and forwards as you get those valuable words/ideas out of your mind and onto the paper (or computer screen).

It’s free. Get a copy right now and enjoy an evening reading through it — then use it to make yourself a better writer.

2. How to Write a Great Query Letter by Noah Lukeman. This is a bit tricky to find if you wish to download a copy of the ebook. The link to the book’s title in the first sentence of this paragraph (or from the Writer’s Digest blog article referenced above) will take you to a page describing this small ebook. From there you can scroll down and find a link that will actually get you to a place to download the ebook. But this is one of those writing resources that is worth the chase to get a copy. It offers some great step-by-step, paragraph-by-paragraph information to help you think through and write a useful query letter.

3. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide: How to Market Any Book for Free by Mark Coker. You will need to either own a Kindle — Amazon.com’s wonderful ebook reader — or go to Amazon.com and download their free Kindle reading software that lets you read Kindle books on your computer, in order to use this little volume. The whole concept of this book and the publishing tools and opportunities behind it are worth 1) buying yourself a Kindle if you don’t yet own one, and, 2) exploring in some depth.

Which brings me to that “segue” I mentioned earlier. I am learning a great deal of good stuff about Kindle, about ebooks and electronic publishing, and I want to share a lot of that with you in an article I expect to have published here tomorrow. Come back and see. (Meanwhile, you can buy a Kindle from Amazon.com simply by clicking on the banner at the top of this page.)

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