Jordan McCollum
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Want to take your story and your writing to the next level in 2015? Kick-start your writing with my very first online writing course beginning January 12!

DEEPEN YOUR CHARACTERS, DEEPEN YOUR FICTION

How many books have you read with a solid plot and passable characters, but you never really got sucked in? How can you keep your story from falling into that trap? By creating deep characters and deep fiction.

Topics covered include:

  • Character creation
  • Deep POV
  • Raising the stakes
  • Structure & line editing for immersion

COST: Because this is my first class and my first time teaching this course, it’s only $30 for a month of hands-on instruction and feedback.

Registration is open now, but only five slots are left!

For more information about the course and to sign up, visit the online courses page of my site.

Want to be the first to hear about (and register for!) future courses? Be sure to join my mailing list!

Nab one of the last five spots today!

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If you’re a newsletter subscriber, you already know about my surprise: I have two new full-length novels available now!

The third book in the Spy Another Day series, Tomorrow We Spy is in pre-order, with copies going out on Friday. A full-length prequel to the series, Spy by Night is out now—and it’s only 99¢ for launch & Cyber Monday!

spy night cyber monday promo

For more info, purchase links or to buy direct from my site, check out Spy by Night and Tomorrow We Spy, or my store.

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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.

disappointed1

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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Blog tour: Ring around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon

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… Keep reading »

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Blog tour: Damnation by Jo Noelle (+ giveaway & writing tip)

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 Damnation 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… Keep reading »

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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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Author photo by Jaren Wilkey
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