Next Meeting

June 20th~
Hook Your Readers with Effective World-Building
Speaker: Bria Burton

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Techniques of the Selling Writer

Swain, Dwight V. Techniques of the Selling Writer. University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.

I've volunteered to write twice a month reviewing books, software, and other writing resources. I have accumulated a lot of such tools, and I want to share the ones I've found most useful. For my first post, I'll start with a book John mentioned at this month's meeting: Techniques of the Selling Writer.

I've enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. In third grade, I started writing plays and short stories. At thirteen, I realized that I wanted to be a novelist. Yet it wasn't until earlier this year that I finally finished my first novel.

What took so long?

One factor was that I didn't know what I was doing. I knew the basic building blocks--plot, setting, character, and so on. I had a vague idea of how they all went together, too, but I couldn't quite figure out how to make them cohere. Writing a novel felt like trying to build a house without having any blueprints. I almost gave up several times. Then I discovered Techniques of the Selling Writer..

I was astonished. Though the book is four decades old (originally written in 1965, it was republished in 1982), the techniques Swain describes are still crucial to creating best-selling popular fiction. As I read, I had frequent "aha" moments as I understood why my favorite writers made the choices they made and just what it is that makes a novel so compelling that I stay up far past my bed time to finish it.

Swain leads off with the basic building blocks of fiction and discusses how to avoid traps that beginning (and some experienced) novelists often fall prey to. His chapter on conflict is one of the best primers on the subject I've ever read. The best value in this book, however, is Swain's advice on the strategy of constructing the plot of popular fiction. For Swain, a plot comprises a series of scenes and sequels. A "scene" means action--the character strives to achieve a goal that will move him closer to realizing the story goal. Scenes are followed by a "sequel," by which he means a period of reflection on the previous scene, in which the character plans a new short term goal and gets ready for a new scene. By utilizing this rhythmic structure of scene-sequel-scene-sequel, authors of popular fiction keep their readers turning the pages.

The final chapters contain information on marketing and sales; these chapters are very out of date, and you're better off skipping them entirely and looking for more recent information.

This is a very dense book, not to be read in one sitting. But if you can absorb the techniques Swain presents and apply them to your fiction, you'll have a far better chance of getting published.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Writing Workshop coming to Tampa Nov 6-9

Greetings writerlings!

I've received news that a Don Maass workshop will be held in Tampa, Nov. 6-9, 2008. It's called High Tension Workshop, and is designed to increase the tension in your novel and help you develop it into a selling vehicle. Feedback from others has been positive, to the effect that I've signed up for the 3 and 1/2 day workshop.

I was going to post a flyer here, but that seems too large for the blog, so I'm going to put their link here and you can register directly on-line. In the discount message enter "FWA and $50 discount" to receive a break on the price.

Go to: to register and get more information.

Yours truly, sincerely, and passionately,


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Necronomicon 2008 Live update!

Greetings fellow writers and aspiring writers!

Can you believe it? I'm actually blogging from the Necronomicon, the SF&F (Science Fiction and Fantasy, butalso includes Horror and Anime) convention going on at the Hilton St. Pete this weekend. I've met a lot of interesting authors, including the honored guests Frederik Pohl, Julie Czerneda and Rick Wilber. Rick is a journalism professor at USF Tampa, and indicated he would be willing to talk to us and also put us in touch with many others in the area.

I'm excited about 2009 and the possible schedule we can develop with all of the talent in this area.

The costumes are great, and I think my favorite is one of the latest Joker. Not just from the makeup and stuff, but because the guy acts the part. I've missed most of the writing workshops, having gone to a Q&A with Pohl (he's 88, so I was reading him in grade school and high school back in the Middle Ages), and an interesting workshop by Czerneda concerning scientific literacy.
A bonus was she went over elements of an SF story.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Review of October 2008 Meeting

Dear fellow writers and aspiring writers,

Last night's meeting was attended by twenty people, including our three newest members. (I'm excited about this, but don't want to overuse the exclamation point!) Kaye Coppersmith set everyone to writing immediately about a character, and most were able to read their results to the everyone. What a talented and giving group!

I'd like to remind you, gently, that you'll get out of this what you put into it. I spoke with a bestselling author who has sold millions of copies of her books, and with several whose first published book is like mine, still a dream of the heart. The desire and excitement to write was the same in all of them, all of us. This is a group that encourages and challenges, and I ask that you accept the challenge, drink up the encouragement and share your talents with the group. It can only help you get better, not only in writing, but in life itself.

Keep writing and living,

Monday, October 6, 2008

New blog information

I've added a new link list on the side, for contests and submissions. I want to make sure we only include high quality publications. Please let me know if you find this valuable or not, or would rather get email notifications when I come across them. I am not looking for them, but you'll find they are places I have submitted to before, or checked out and found worthwhile.