Jordan McCollum
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I love reading writing blogs. I love the craft, I love learning more about it, and I love wasting time on the Internet, so writing blogs have been a major time-suck a favorite hobby.

But recently, I’ve noticed a sad trend among writing blogs. For example, yesterday, I was browsing Pinterest and saw a great graphic for an article on a writing craft topic. It happens to be a topic I’ve written a series about in the past, but I’m perennially curious, so I clicked through.

The article claimed to teach “how to write TECHNIQUE.” The actual article consisted of a paragraph introducing the topic, two points refreshing underlying principles, and two edited examples. The conclusion mentions that you don’t always have to use TECHNIQUE.

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Yep. That’s it. Sure, the examples were accurate, but the article covers only one aspect of the technique and spends 200 words on it (and about 300 words on the rest of the article). There are entire books on the subject and I’ve written thousands of words on it myself. And this isn’t the only time I’ve seen this recently. In fact, it seems to have become a prevailing trend: a great headline on an important writing topic followed by what barely qualifies as an introduction.

Granted, a few other factors are in play here. I’ve studied writing craft off and on for fifteen years—mostly on for the last seven—and I’ve learned a lot. Much of the information out there geared toward beginners just wouldn’t interest me. But there’s a huge difference between covering a topic I already know about and not even covering the promised topic in the first place. (And admittedly, part of my frustration also stems from the fact that I’ve often written more extensively and helpfully about the same topics.)

I know that bloggers often have to leave room for commenters to participate and add to the discussion, but sometimes you can say so little that they have nowhere to go with the topic. I don’t know if these bloggers are pressed for time or not terribly interested in the craft (maybe they feel like the have to write about craft—you don’t), or maybe spending most of their blogging time crafting great graphics (which does take time). No matter what the reason, I often feel like the number of writing blogs out there has gone up while the quality, at least gauging by the articles I’ve seen shared, has gone down.

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I’ve gotten so tired of it that I’ve stopped clicking on links that I can see go to certain sites that are particularly bad offenders, or links shared by all but a select few I know and trust.

This article would probably fall into that fairly useless category if I didn’t share some of those trusted resources, eh? So, here’s my top three sources for good, thought-provoking writing articles with practical, actual help:

  1. Jami Gold’s blog and Twitter feed
  2. Fiction University, Janice Hardy’s blog, and her Twitter feed
  3. Writers Helping Writers as well as the Twitter feeds of authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

To go along with that: if you ever see me just barely scratching the surface of a promised topic, comment. Say something. Call me out. Heck, even start a fight. Pretending to teach an in-depth topic with two superficial examples isn’t helping anyone learn the technique. Let’s show more respect for the craft—and for our fellow writers’ intelligence.

What do you think? Are you reading fewer writing blogs these days? Has the quality gone down, or is it just the links I’m seeing?

Photo credits: Disappointed manbark; Disappointed childRachel Monroe both via Flickr/CC

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Because I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. All of my books (well, that I want to publish, anyway) have a second draft. In fact, I just finished one. I think every book—yes, every.single.one—needs at least a second draft. (Mine have a bare minimum of seven.)

Draft

I just think the term “writing” a second draft is . . . odd. When we talk about “writing” the first draft, we mean pounding out those 70,000 brand new words (because my first drafts are almost always 70,000 words, strangely) one after the other. By that standard, it seems like “writing” a second draft would mean setting aside those words and starting over to write out 70,000 new ones. (Or more; my first 3-5 drafts grow up to 30%.) Possibly it might mean using those words as a guide, perhaps in another window of your program, as you start a fresh document, writing the book from scratch again.

Does anybody out there do that?

To be clear, I’m not really referring to the necessary restructuring a discovery writer/pantser might face after a first draft. I mean people who have a structurally okay-ish manuscript in need of lots of work, of course, as all first drafts are. DraftingDo we really just throw those words away?

That seems ridiculous to me.

Certainly, my manuscript changes drastically from the first draft to the second. Literally no scene is untouched. Some scenes may be restructured in major ways. Some, I realize, are missing altogether. A few (more than a few this time around) may be in the wrong place.

But I just can’t fathom the idea of starting over from scratch. Because even if you’ve written the novel once before, it seems to me you’re just going to end up with exactly what you had before: a messy first draft.

So, no, I don’t “write” a second or third or fourth draft of a novel. I revise, rewrite, edit and polish those drafts. But I only “write” the book (hopefully!) once.

Do you “write” a second draft?

Photo credits: DRAFT—Jeffrey Beall; garbage—Sebastien Wiertz

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The latest book from my critique partner Julie Coulter Bellon has launched—and it’s the thrilling conclusion to her hostage negotiator series! It’s a fantastic capstone to their stories, and a sweet reunion romance. Check it out!

Ring Around the Rosie Blog Tour and Giveaway!

Today is the kickoff for the blog tour for my new novel, Ring Around the Rosie! There are some awesome prizes being given away, so be sure to scroll down and enter to win!  

Ring Around the Rosie



Revenge is a dish best served cold . . .

As the ex-wife of a law enforcement officer, Sarah Reed has known loneliness and loss. In order to cope, she makes a life for herself that’s full of routine while building a wall of ice around her heart. Everything about her is as predictable as she can make it until a tiny detour for her ex-husband, Ron, changes her life forever. Caught in a bomb crisis, Sarah is taken hostage by a man who wants Ron and everyone around him to suffer—and his idea of suffering is more terrible than Sarah had ever dreamed.

Captain Ron Reed has seen the worst of humanity in his job with the Hostage Negotiation Team, but he never expected his past to come back with a vengeance—literally. Aaron Starks, a criminal explosives expert, has stolen next-gen bomb technology and uses it to force Ron to bargain for the lives of his team and his ex-wife, Sarah, the woman he still loves. But the situation escalates when Ron discovers that Starks has an even bigger objective in mind—using the bomb to show how vulnerable America and her people truly are.

Ron is willing to risk everything to save his country and those he loves, but when negotiations break down, will his sacrifice be too little too late?

Excerpt 

Her words were cut off by a blast of hot air and fire, an explosion so large it blew them all backward. Ron hit the floor hard and lay there dazed and groggy. Glass and debris rained down. Confetti-sized menus and napkins floated like snowflakes in slow motion all around him. For a second the entire world was a silent tunnel with him at the end of it. It would be so easy to just close his eyes and let the blackness suck him down into unconsciousness. But he couldn’t. Not yet. Get up. Get everyone out.

“Sarah?” he croaked. He tried again. “Sarah?” His legs felt like lead and the urge to just lie back was stronger than ever. No. Keep moving. “Claire?” He coughed and tried to catch a breath, but couldn’t get the oxygen to his lungs. With a shallow intake of air, he turned over on his stomach and used his arms to raise himself to a sitting position. The inside of the diner looked like a destructive madman had rearranged it. The booths were toppled or stacked on top of each other. The hostess station was next to him now. The only thing that was still standing where it had before the blast was the four walls, the ceiling, and the antique counter. “Sarah,” he called again. “Bart? Colby?” The little girl. Was she still in the back with her mother?

No one answered. Where is everyone? He crawled forward. Sarah had been nearly right beside him. Now there was no sign of her. He rubbed his eyes and coughed. Moving slowly, he prayed she was alive. It didn’t take long to find her sandwiched between an overturned booth bench and the podium for the hostess station. With some effort he managed to maneuver close to her, the adrenaline kicking in as his blood pounded through his system. Don’t let her be dead. Not like this.


Purchase Your Copy
Praise for Ring Around the Rosie
“Julie Coulter Bellon proves once again she is a master at capturing her audience from the very first page . . . Unlike most suspense novels, the most suspenseful portion of Ring Around the Rosie is the first two thirds of the book . . . Suspense readers as well as anyone who just enjoys an absorbing story will enjoy this one.”  —Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine

Julie Coulter Bellon is one of my favorite romantic suspense writers, and this book is her best so far! It charters deep emotions and a complex plot. At the same time it traces the resurrection of a marriage. It has good writing, good plotting, and a very satisfying ending.  —Award-winning romance author, G.G. Vandagriff 


About the Author





Julie is married with eight children and eleven published books. She loves to travel and her favorite cities she’s visited so far are probably Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. She would love to visit Hawaii, Australia, Ireland, and Scotland someday. She loves to read, write, teach, watch Castle and Hawaii Five-O, and eat Canadian chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.        

Giveaway

Prize #1—$30 Amazon Gift Card 
Prize #2—Booklovers Basket
Prize #3—Four Book Set of Hostage Negotiation Team series 
Ends 9/15/14 

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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I’m so excited to share this book with you! I got to read a pre-release version of this book almost a year ago and I LOVED it. I’ve been waiting forever for it to come out so I could review it! I love the conflicts Cassie faces and how she learns and grows in a realistic way. Plus, I loved the fresh, vivid writing.

About the book

DamnationDamnation by Jo Noelle

Cassie is going to heaven—if she can get amnesty from hell in the next twenty days.  Her assignment is to change the eternal destination of a girl in Albuquerque to earn admittance into heaven.

No sweat.

But when Cassie returns to earth during her three-week, mostly-mortal assignment, her old habits get in the way, (apparently habits don’t die when you do), the partners assigned to help her are anything but helpful, and it turns out the girl she is supposed to help is the only enemy she made on her first day of school.

Oh, I’m so going to hell.

Things aren’t all bad—it helps to have a hot angel on your side. Mmm-Marc. Even though he’s all about heavenly business, Cassie would like to make it personal.

Assignment with benefits.

goodreads1Add Damnation to your Goodreads!

Read a sample of Damnation on Amazon now!

About Jo Noelle

Author PicJo Noelle grew up in Colorado and Utah but also spent time in Idaho and California. She has two adult children and three small kids.

She teaches teachers and students about reading and writing, grows freakishly large tomatoes, enjoys cooking especially for desserts, builds furniture, sews beautiful dresses, and likes to go hiking in the nearby mountains.

Oh, and by the way, she’s two people—Canda Mortensen and Deanna Henderson, a mother/daughter writing team.

Writing tip from Jo Noelle: Building Tension Through Questions

We’re looking at some ways to build tension in our stories and decided to ask a lot of questions to get us started.

Questions!

Decide what the overall book question is going to be for your story. This is the overall premise you are writing to achieve. For Damnation it is:

  • Will 17 yo Cassie Witlon earn amnesty from Hell in the next 20 days?

Then as you plan or revise each scene decide what questions you can plant for the readers to be motivated to learn the answer to. Here are some more we used:

  • Will Cassie beat the deadline?
  • Will Cassie escape?
  • Will Cassie get distracted from her purpose?

These are a little cryptic but they become more detailed as we wrote the scenes. We need one question for each scene. Some authors describe this step as making sure your scenes have a “purpose” or a “goal.” It’s just a little easier for us to think in terms of answering a question.

More about story questions and scene goals

The giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get the Details
1 winner will receive a $100.00 Amazon.com giftcard.
Blog hop and Rafflecopter registrations Begin 9/1/14 and End 9/7/14 MDT

 

This drawing is open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Card.  Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Check back on this blog between Sept. 8-10, 2014. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized and sponsored by Canda Mortensen & Deanna Henderson DBA Jo Noelle. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Character sympathy study: Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is a literary classic. But can you find the principles of character sympathy in a two-hundred-year-old novel? You can find the full text of Pride and Prejudice online with Project Gutenberg. A true Regency novel (the formal Regency period only lasted nine years until the Prince Regent ascended to the throne), Pride and Prejudice focuses heavily upon society and the social interactions of a wide circle of people. It’s written in omniscient POV, enabling the narrator to convey more information about all of the characters than any one of them would be privy to in the course… Keep reading »

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Stranger than fiction: the world’s most audacious plagiarist?

Sam Taylor Mullens, a pseudonym, began promoting her third novel in the usual way—taking sign ups for a blog tour, passing out advance review copies to bloggers. Unfortunately, one of the bloggers noticed something strange about The Auction Deal. It bore an absolutely uncanny resemblance to another novel she’d read. And by uncanny, we mean almost sentence-by-sentence copying. The “author” had taken someone else’s clean, Christian romance and altered it by changing it to first person, switching out character names, paraphrasing virtually every sentence, and adding in sex scenes. Original, Love to the Highest Bidder ©1998 (republished in 2012 as… Keep reading »

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The thing about depression

A few years ago, one of my husband’s workers left at lunch and didn’t come back. My husband was concerned. He knew this guy—I’ll call him Adam, not his name—had been struggling with family and other issues lately, but Adam had actually seemed happier the last few days. Later that night, my husband got a text message informing him that Adam was dead. He had gone home, lined his garage with plastic, called the police so they would find him instead of his mother, and shot himself. I have a friend who once spent months blogging about how to serve… Keep reading »

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The ethics of beta reading

I don’t know if it’s just the circles I’m in, but I’ve noticed a large number of authors who’ve suddenly had trouble with beta readers, who read a book and offer feedback before publication. Even experienced betas have been doing things that are frankly unethical, so I thought perhaps we just need some guidelines on what is appropriate and not for a beta reader. The ethical beta You have been taken into a position of trust. The author has helped you to make their book better before they publish it. The ethical beta reader understands that they are reviewing a… Keep reading »

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Author photo by Jaren Wilkey
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