Everyone has read the stories about John Grisham and Frederick Forsyth, two authors who wrote best sellers with their first novel. Enthusiastic writers point out that Grisham had no formal training and just wrote by the seat of his pants, without any form of novel writing course online to help him!
Forsyth, on the hand, wrote his novel ‘Day of the Jackal‘ in 30 days and we all know the rest of the story. Here’s the rub folks – it ain’t going to happen! The market for new novels in all genres is incredibly crowded today, and a new author needs all the help he or she can get.
Of course, you can go it alone, picking up all those free tips on Youtube, but a well-taught and structured approach to creative writing will lift you above the crowd fast.
Statistics show that writer’s who successfully complete a professional online novel writing course are three times more likely to eventually publish a novel. It’s a fact that 3 or 4 students out of every 100 who enrol in the best writing workshops in New York or UK become published novelists. The problem is: We don’t all live in a city and real live writing creative writing classes are prohibitively expensive.
For many people, a book writing course online is the answer and gives the best of both worlds. They are affordable and the best are taught by real authors. Not all online writing workshops are the same. Look for tutorials offered by published authors and industry professionals, preferably award-winners!
Creative Writing Courses Online Presented By Holly Lisle
Holly Lisle has a fine collection of book writing courses online and her credentials are about as good as they can get! According to her Wikipedia page, she ranks among the most prolific and successful authors who also excel at teaching their craft – a rare combination indeed.
Writing professionally since 1991, her first novel FIRE IN THE MIST won the Compton Crook Award, which is presented in the category of Best First Novel. Since then, she has written and published over 30 books and incredibly, finds the time to create some of the best online writing workshops in general, and how to write novels in particular.
The video below is an example of her teaching style. It’s infectious, fun and entertaining, while oozing with tips for improving your fiction writing at the basic level and learning how to write a good novel.
She puts herself in the reader’s place and asks herself the right questions – am I telling the reader too much or too little? Is the main character active or passive? Does the point of view suit the story?
It’s tremendously practical and the course reviews speak for themselves. Holly has gone the extra couple of miles by providing a lively forum where writers at all level hang, exchanging ideas and offering encouragement to their peers. Of course, Holly is always on-hand to steer people in the right direction.
In short, Holly’s writing courses are the ‘real deal’ and offer a fast track to writing your own fiction and getting it published – knowing how to write a good novel is just the first phase of an author’s work! You’ll also find courses for creating book covers, publishing and book marketing. Holly Lisle writing courses are the complete package for writing success.
Creative Writing Critique by Holly Lisle
A head peaked around my nearly closed door. I saw panic in the eyes that looked back at me. Panic and cold hard fear. Kate was back and she was in trouble. They’re always in trouble, that’s why they come to me. I’m a writer crash tester. After 17 years and 32 novels of my own, I can shake down a plot, twist a sentence like a pretzel and slam a paragraph against a wall until it begs mercy.
I take no prisoners, I brook no excuses and now I’m on the case of a fuzzy thing. Kate needed answers and she needed them fast. She handed me a sheaf of papers and said, “I want the opening to suck the reader in and I don’t think this is sucking.” So I started reading.
The first time it was a nightmare. I was seven years old and it was the middle of the night. when my dreams turned from a Queen’s banquet to a dark hazy world which was all too real. It was like walking alone at night without any light but there was something more to it. Strange intrusive beings surrounded me and I cowered in their presence.
I awoke to a wet bed shivering and alone, and although it was still early, I didn’t sleep again that night. I didn’t tell anyone. Whenever I’d tried to tell mama my dreams in the past, not that they’d ever been anything like this, she’d always laughed at me and in the bright light of a summer’s day this one seemed as silly as any of my other nightmare adventures.
The second time was much the same. I was nine when I wandered from a sunny meadow into the twisted reality of the nightmare once again, a little older but no less scared. I shrank away from other beings that approached me and longed desperately for my eyes to open to that wet bed.
This time I told my friend Alex, although not about the wet bed. Naturally, he told me I was weird and went back to showing me his wooden sword. It didn’t happen again for a while. When it did I was 13 and it happened a bit differently. I was reluctantly helping mama prepare dinner. I’d wanted to go for a ride with Alex and Kaliesha but Mama and Papa wouldn’t let me.
So there I was shelling peas with an air of great offense and injustice, fuming to myself when the world went dark. Mom’s pretty singing faded to an eerie silence. I could feel strange things coming toward me, approaching me, eagerly. I desperately wanted to get away to hide but there was nothing there, but then I was terrified, more so than before because I knew I wasn’t asleep.
Panicking, I shouted at them to leave me alone and they did. I couldn’t see them but I could feel them. They stopped as if surprised and then began to retreat. Before I had time to do anything more, I was back in the kitchen leaning heavily on the wooden table with Mama’s arm around my shoulders and her murmurs of worried comfort in my ears.
We walk away from this scene lost in smoke and confusion. What happened here? It raises its ugly head and it is a problem. We are told the first time it was a nightmare. We see that it was the middle of the night.
We see that it was like walking alone at night but there was something more to it. In the same sentence, or in the same section, here we have my dreams turned all too real, and the word ‘strange’.
We’ll get into why those are problems in a minute. We cannot see, hear, feel, taste, smell or touch anything. The character awakes to a wet bed. It was still early but she didn’t tell anyone because she says her dreams were different than they were in the past – ‘not that it ever been anything like this’ but we don’t know what ‘this’ was like.
Move on; what is real to the writer must be real to us. We’re told the second time was much the same but we don’t have a clear feel for the first time. We’re told about a twisted reality. This is a vague phrase.
We’re told about ‘other beings that approached me’. Beings are a vague word and move on. For an instant here we have light clarity and action, not in the first sentence. There we have it ‘didn’t happen’ and ‘it happened’ a bit differently.
But moving down into the second paragraph on the scene ‘so there I was shelling peas with an air of great offense and injustice fuming to myself when the world went dark for a moment’. Here we get a sharp view of this kid. We know who she is. We know what she’s thinking. We understand her then, it all goes away.
We are confronted again with ‘I could feel strange things coming toward me’. Move on and in the climax, the climax comes and goes, and it leaves us unmoved. She yells at the things that are coming at her and they just go away.
We have no feel for her fear. She tells us ‘I was terrified’ but ‘I was terrified’ says nothing. It requires us to believe her, to take her at her word. It does not show us.
So what we have met in this example is the monster ‘tell’ and we as writers must fear him.
Fix number one, ‘escape’ from it and other vague pronouns. The writer’s job is to make the world she imagines real to her reader. Concrete nouns give the reader something to hang on to.
Instead of the introductory sentence ‘the first time it was a nightmare’ I used as an example ‘that first time darkness devoured me and cold iced my skin and emptiness crushed the air from my lungs’. Those are strong nouns ‘darkness’, ‘cold’,’ emptiness’. We understand them.
Fix number two – kill the verb ‘to be’. You can use it occasionally but Hamlet’s soliloquy aside, ‘to be’ is not the writers friend. It tells. It says ‘this is what is because I say so’.
It does not show us anything. Strong verbs are ‘devoured’, ‘iced’, and ‘crushed’ as in my example sentence here, ‘that first time darkness devoured me and cold iced my skin and emptiness crushed the air from my lungs’.
Fix number three – engage the reader’s senses. You must be your character. Get inside his head. Breathe air through his nose and mouth. Feel his sunburned skin, the ache in his muscles. Taste the dried stale bread that’s all he’s had to eat, and bring it to us so that we are in him.
To my example here, instead of the ‘strange creatures’, I have ‘tall pale creatures surrounded me crowding, close to me like too much smoke from a fire and like a fire smoke I could see them and see through them at the same time’.
Fix number four – keep the character moving. This is a passive character. In three nightmares the only thing she does one time is yell. She does nothing else but tell us what is around her.
Characters to whom things happen bore readers. Characters who act intrigue readers. My example from her third encounter – ‘I fought to break free of the darkness’ to force air into my lungs’ to move my frozen limbs but I could not so I stared into their glowing eyes and willed their hands off my skin.
Willed them back from me with my anger and my hatred. Back half an inch. Back an inch. Back a step, then two steps. I willed them gone and without warning they were.’
The biggest fix, however, is the fuzzy thing and this comes from the writer not knowing clearly what it is she’s writing about before she starts to write. Know what’s in your world before you write it.
Don’t describe the monster, and by monster I mean whatever it is you have to describe, or put in front of your reader on page one but describe it to yourself beforehand so that you know your monster inside and out.
Strange is not a writer’s word. My example here – ‘smoke’, ‘dense body 10 feet tall’, ‘glowing eyes’, ‘suckers on palms of clawed hands’, ‘no mouth’, ‘speaks telepathically’, ‘exudes fear’, ‘exudes cold’, this is the way you describe the thing on the paper to yourself before anybody ever sees it. You don’t put this in front of your reader, as such, but you know it’s there, so that you can use it.
In the case of the fuzzy thing, you’ve seen a vague noun crash leaning on evasive pronouns like it in an attempt to heighten mystery. A weak verb crash – telling with is rather than showing with active verbs. A sensory deprivation crash – forgetting to figure out what the writer would do and feel and see and think and hear in a similar situation.
An action crash – the character watches without acting and a visualization crash – not knowing the monster well enough. Crash tests – I do them because all writers make mistakes. Working writers learn how to fix them. Learn to crash test your own writing. From me, Holly Lisle novelist, writing teacher, writer crash tester.
Novel Writing Course Online For Beginners With Alessandra Torre
I’ve researched several novel writing courses delivered over the internet, and the tutorials offered by Alessandra Torres stand out. I particularly like the fact that she is a New York Times award-winning author, so she really knows how to put a novel together.
In this short video below, you can see a preview of her course ‘How To Write A novel’:
It’s a general rule that a writer’s job has a 50/50 split between actually creating a novel and then getting it to the readers. Alessandra Torres understands this aspect very well and also offers much sound advice on this important aspect of the craft.
Online Novel Writing Workshops & Beyond!
An editor talks about the mistakes hat new authors regularly make:
I wanted to talk about something a little bit different today. Most of you know that I have a book editor background and some of you seemed kind of interested in that, so I thought we’d have a little bit of an editor discussion.
I kind of wanted to talk about three common mistakes that I see in fiction generally with new authors. These are minor things and honestly, I’ll probably continue talking about this maybe make a few other videos, because I think these really small things can help with the pacing of the novel.
They can help tighten up the language and ultimately help you connect with readers. Before we dive into that I did want to address something, and that is the misconceptions that people have of book editors. A lot of people tend to think of editors as these snobby mean monsters with their red pen, going on a mission to crush your dreams and cackling at their computers.
Fixing all these grammatical errors – monsters, monsters. You think we’re all monsters but I want to tell you that I could not be further from the truth. In fact it might go off on a little bit of a tangent, so this might be a two-part video. We’ll see what happens but really book editors. Editors who care are not in it to rip up your manuscript.
Yes there may be some uncomfortable things that, you know, you might have to address as an author, but you have to think of your editor as a partner. You have to think of your editor as like that friend who will let you know if you have lipstick on your teeth. Like we are here to help you. Ultimately, we’re here to help you connect with readers.
We’re here to watch a better product emerge, to help you with your revision. I just want that to kind of be like the underlying theme of this video. It’s important that you know that I don’t take lightly the fact that authors hand over their manuscripts to me. That is a very durable thing. Your manuscript is your baby. It’s precious. I get that.
I don’t take that lightly and so I really can’t stress that enough. You created something. You sat down and you wrote a book, and that’s something to be celebrated. So just know that before we go into this. And also I want to say that I understand for first-time authors that it can be frustrating to work on something and to know where you want to go with your work.
You have the idea. You have the vision. You have the good taste. Hugh Glass talks about this. He talks about it, he calls it the gap. I’ll try to link it down below if I can find it, but he basically talks about that gap between knowing what you want to create, and just not being there yet, because practice makes perfect .
You have to work hard with any creative project to get to kind of where you want to be, and I know it can be frustrating sometimes. You have to create that terrible first draft, or that second draft, or that third draft that just is bad. It’s not useless. It’s your doing the hard work. Your revising and revising takes courage.
It takes courage to write a book, to really put yourself out there and entrust your manuscript with someone like me, so I respect you. I find it incredibly brave. Who could do a whole video on that? We’re gonna keep trucking along here. So the first common mistake that I see a lot in fiction, kind of the overused words or techniques that I see.
These include masking emotions with strong verbs. So many writers are able to show readers what’s happening with a character but often when it comes to emotions, it’s really really easy to tell us what’s going on instead of show us. You’ve heard ‘show don’t tell’. I’m sure if you’re a writer you’ve heard it, but this is a really overused technique that kind of creates the illusion of a powerful scene or a powerful emotion.
When you take a closer look, you realize that it doesn’t really tell the reader anything. Examples: fear slammed into her sadness, strangled him, anger shot through her doubt and fear rose in her chest. These are not bad sentences but they are masking emotion. At first they seem like really solid strong sentences but they’re actually more abstract.
Rather than writing these ambiguous sentences, ask yourself if you can show how a character is confused or scared during. Ask yourself if it shows how a character really is. If it doesn’t convey the physical and mental associations with that emotion. then it’s a telling sentence.
I want to take a second here to recommend a resource called the emotion thesaurus, the writers guide to character expression. I’ll link it down below. It is the best resource if you struggle with conveying body language or just really showing what’s going on with the character rather than telling.
Number two mistake – using unnecessary words, such as started to, or began to, or begin to, or start to. This seems like so minor it’s almost not even worth mentioning, but I promise you that if you keep a look out for these words, you will tighten up your language. You will improve the overall pacing of your novel. Keeping an eye out for unnecessary words is the best thing you can do.
Now what do I mean by empty words? When someone starts to do something, they’re already doing it. When she starts to walk down the driveway, she is walking. If he begins to cook dinner, he is cooking dinner. I think a lot of writers tend to use empty words to build tension or suspense. but really it’s not helping with the pacing. As with all writing guidelines, don’t go eliminating every time you see this word, but just ask yourself ‘can I remove this?’ If it’s not adding value, it’s gone.
The third one is kind of a few issues combined and that is over explaining, or insulting the readers intelligence. Now, this isn’t something that I experienced just as an editor. I’m sure you as a reader have seen this in novels. When they just kind of like dump all this information on you and it’s something that could have easily unfolded naturally in the story through dialogue or descriptions.
I’m not saying that readers need to be confused on what’s going on in the first chapter or whatever, but play around with how you reveal certain information. Can you reveal it naturally through dialogue? That’s the info dumping, part the over-explaining. Insulting our readers intelligence has to do more with kind of using unnecessary words again. There’s nothing worse for readers experience when the author is watering down what’s going on.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
“I don’t understand why you did that to me,” said Molly, with a confused look on her face.
So, is that dialogue tag necessary? Not really, if it’s clear by the dialogue that Molly doesn’t understand something, it’s probably safe to say that you don’t have to tell the reader that she has a confused look on her face. If it’s not necessary slows down the story.
Those are my three teeny tiny bits of advice. Just common overused words and techniques that I see in fiction generally with first-time authors. Again these are things that we all do. These are things that I’m sure I would do if I wrote a book, and I think practice makes maybe not perfect, but you’ll get there. You will improve and hone your craft.
Anyway, I would love to know as readers, or maybe your editors and writers out there, what are some pet peeves of yours, or what are some common mistakes that you find in your everyday reading experience. I would probably be making more editor talk videos like this. If you guys enjoy, it you’d like to get into that, leave a comment. I love to nerd out about this kind of stuff, and yeah, I will talk to you soon . Bye.
Avoid Author’s Mistakes With An Novel Writing Course Online
Hi community of awesome! I’m Ava Jae, and this is Bookishpixie. So as I think I’ve mentioned here before, I was really young when I decided I wanted to be a published author. Like, pre-high school, eighth grade young. And when I decided that that was my life goal, I dove right into it.
It was a 100,000-word YA Fantasy, even though I hadn’t really read YA, except for ERAGON and HARRY POTTER, but…we’ll get into that. What I’m leading up to is I made a lot of mistakes as a young writer. Which is understandable because I was totally new to the whole thing, but I want to share with you some of my mistakes so that you can hopefully avoid them.
So here we go. First, I set a time limit to reaching my goal. Because I was a just-turned teenager teen, I decided that I wanted to be published *as* a teen. The title in my mind was “Bestselling Teen Author.” Aaaand…that didn’t exactly happen. I did not get my book deal as a teen, I didn’t even get my agent as a teen. And yet, by the time I’d graduated high school, I had written five books.
But I had put *so* much pressure on myself to get published by a certain age. And so it became harder and harder for me as I got older and started realizing that the teen author thing wasn’t going to happen for me, and honestly I just made it so much more difficult for myself than I needed to. It was really hard for me to let go of the expectation of getting published as a teen.
But as I’ve said before, it takes time to hone your writing skill, and it takes some people longer than others, and that’s okay. I was on the way longer end of that scale, and I don’t regret one second of it. So don’t put the pressure of a time limit on yourself. You’ll get there at exactly the right time for you.
Second, I didn’t use critique partners…yeah. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, especially because I now know how important they are and I can’t even imagine trying to move forward with my writing career without my amazing critique partners, but um…yeah, I didn’t at first. I didn’t really know that I wasn’t…sort of?
Because I had family members read it, and I thought that was good enough. But it was *so* not good enough. You need to work with critique partners who are a) not related to you, because people who are related to you are too nice to you, and b) who are writers. I’ve done an entire vlog already on the importance of critique partners, so I’ll link to that below.
But basically don’t skip them, seriously. You need critique partners. Learn from my mistakes, you guys. Third, I didn’t read my category or genre. Like I said, there were a couple exceptions to this because I had semi-recently read ERAGON and HARRY POTTER, which…is middle grade at the beginning, but anyway, that was my knowledge of kidlit and fantasy.
At the time that I was writing my first book, I read a ton of Ted Dekker books, and he’s still one of my favourite authors, but he does not write in the category and genre that I write in. So…I really should have been exposing myself to other voices…and I wasn’t. I’ve also done a vlog on why writers must read, so I’ll link to that below. And fourth, when I finished my first draft, I immediately jumped into line editing.
Yeah. Your second draft is not the place for line edits…at all. When you first start your revisions, you want to be focusing on big picture issues, like plot, and character, and pacing, and those kinds of things, but line editing needs to be saved for your later drafts when you’re nearly done.
Why? Because if you do it early on you’re probably gonna have to redo it toward the end again after you’ve made your bigger changes. And I mean not only did I jump into line editing, that was the *only* editing I did. When I first started editing my own work, I thought that editing meant changing commas here and there, and making sure things were grammatically correct, and changing words here and there to make it sound prettier and flow a little better…and that was it.
But there’s so much more to revisions and I’ve already done vlogs on editing, so I’ll link to those below. So those are the mistakes I made, and I hope that you guys will see this video, and not make the same ones. Good luck. So that’s all I’ve got for today! If you liked what you saw, don’t forget to subscribe and comment, and I’ll see you guys next time.