Quotes from Experts on Writing

Several years ago, I shared the following quotes from writers and editors. Their words are still true today. So as a Christmas gift, I give them to you again today. Merry Christmas!

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My new book of Contemporary Christian Allegories, Crumbled, Tumble, Humbled—Saved released 12/7/2020. Learn more.

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Quotes

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. “The skill of a skilled writer tricks you into thinking that there is no skill.”

image by skeeze
image by skeeze

On Writing by Stephen King. “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine, if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. … You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes.”

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. “What about your premise? Is it truly a fresh look at your subject, a perspective that no one else but you can bring to it? Is it the opposite of what we expect or a mix of elements such as we’ve never seen before? If not, you have some work to do.”

image by freefaithgraphics
image by freefaithgraphics

Hooked by Les Edgerton. “A tremendous number of possibly good and even brilliant novels and short stories never get read beyond the first few paragraphs or pages by agents and editors. Why? Simple: The stories don’t begin in the right place.”

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein “We are driven through life by our needs and wants. … If your character doesn’t want anything badly enough, readers will have a hard time rooting for him to attain his goal, which is what compels readers to continue reading. The more urgent the want, the greater the reader’s interest.”

image by geralt
image by geralt

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. “Motivation is possibly the most important of the three elements of GMC because you can do anything in fiction. … Everything truly is possible as long as you help your reader understand why your characters do what they do. Why they land themselves in impossible situations. Why they make the choices they make.”

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. “So when you come across an explanation of the character’s emotion, simply cut the explanation. If the emotion is still shown, then the explanation wasn’t needed. If the emotion isn’t shown, then rewrite the passage so that it is.”

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. “Dialogue helps to create original characters and move the plot along. If it isn’t doing either of those things, it probably should be cut.”

image by geralt
image by geralt

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. “In Deep [Point of View], we don’t want thoughts or actions told or explained by a third-party; we want to live the events inside the [Point of View Character’s] head.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. “And the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes. You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.”

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I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  

—Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! 

—Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan.

—Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling cozy mystery author of the “Myrtle Clover Mysteries,” the “Southern Quilting Mysteries,” and the “Memphis Barbeque Mysteries,” http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/  

Zoe has developed a guiding resource for beginning writers. Her method is designed for brainstorming, shaping, and revising the early draft of a manuscript. General and specific tips are offered for applying rules of writing to enhance one’s story for a workable second draft. By exploring the plot line of Love Comes Softly, writers may examine their own work for stronger plot and characterization. Valuable tools are offered that enable the writer to develop a workable draft in only 30 days!

—Yvonne Lehman, award-winning, best-selling author of 48 novels

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is chock-full of practical techniques. Numerous examples clarify problem areas and provide workable solutions. The action steps and blah busters McCarthy suggests will help you improve every sentence, every paragraph of your novel. If you follow her advice and implement her strategies, a publisher will be much more likely to issue you a contract.

—Denise K. Loock, freelance editor, lightningeditingservices.com

A concise, detailed, step by step resource for all writers. 

— Jamie West, editor coordinator, Pelican Book Group

Zoe’s writing blog has always intrigued me. As a high school English teacher, I can attest that her tips on good grammar and her hints for excellent sentence and paragraph structure are spot on. But as an author, I also appreciate her ever-present advice that excellent skills are not enough: you must tell a good story, too. This book clearly shows how to do it all.

—Tanya Hanson, “Writing the Trails to Tenderness,” author of Christmas Lights, Outlaw Heart, Hearts Crossing Ranch anthology, and coming in 2019, Tainted Lady, Heart of Hope, and Angel Heart. www.tanyahanson.com

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools.

–Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

10 Ways to Make Books Earn Their Shelf Space in Your Bookcase

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” —Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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In an earlier post, I talked about squeezing by-products from your creative work. This time it’s squeezing by-products from others’ creative work, i.e. their books.

I love my library. The many books I’ve read surrounding me as I write encourages me. For years, I felt guilty for not giving the books away. I’ve loaned out many, but…

Then my guilt vanished when I discovered so many ways to “reuse” them for me and for others.

Whether you’re an author, a blogger, or a workshop leader:

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  • You can glean new uses for the books on your bookshelves. click to tweet

photoUses for the Books on Your Bookshelves

1. I write a lot of blog posts on writing. While making a point, I pull books from my shelves and find published examples to show what I mean.

2. I credit the author for the examples I use from books. This gives other authors exposure, especially as to how they cleverly performed a technique.

3. I have trouble sometimes in finding the answer to an uncommon grammar, style, or punctuation question in my reference books. So, I peruse books on my shelves. I often find how at least one publisher handled the issue. Using the search function on my e-books makes this easier

4. I give a quote in each of my blog posts. I usually search online for quotes. Often, though, I remember something an author said in one of the books on my shelves that’s the perfect quote.

5. I lead workshops on writing. I’ll take a load of books with me to use for examples. Once, I handed each participant a book and had each read aloud the opening paragraph. Then we voted on the best opening hook. This started discussion. It also gave other authors exposure.

6. I gathered 50 of my print and e-book inspirational romance novels recently and read the last two pages. I learned the popular elements inspirational romance authors leave their readers with at the end of their books. It gave me content for a blog post and a new ending idea I want to try.

7. I send my agent book proposals. In them, I list novels similar to mine. This helps the publisher know how marketable my book might be. I prefer to compare my book’s similarities and unique differences to books I’ve read and have on hand to refresh my memory.
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8. I’ve seen how loaning books to people has caused them to purchase the authors’ other books.

9. I visited a shut-in for years. Every week I brought her books from my shelves. They kept her going, and they gave us something fun to talk about.

10. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention we can press flowers or four-leaf clovers in our books.

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How have you put your shelved books to work?

5 Tips from Creative Geniuses on How to Love

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On this Valentines Day, enjoy the tips on how to love, gleaned from the thoughts of creative geniuses.

“The more I think about it, the more I realize there is nothing more artistic than to love others.” —Vincent Van Gogh—Dutch painter (1853-1890)

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tip 1: Love others, and experience artistic beauty. I thought creative geniuses submerged themselves deep in their work and never thought about brotherly love. Van Gogh cutting off a piece of his ear and giving it to a prostitute was morbid. Yet Van Gogh also spoke this tender quote. For me, it’s love God and others.

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“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”  —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe —German poet/writer/scientist/ natural philosopher (1749-1832)

MP900443864Tip 2: Love well, and refine character. Considering his long list of occupations, Goethe may have referred to the impact of these endeavors on his life. Or he may have offered it as a lesson learned from his love life. He seems to have loved several women over his life, which also may have shaped him. Some inspired his works. Others rejected him. An engagement was ended. He married his mistress of little education after eighteen years and the birth of several children.

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“In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love.”  —Marc Chagall—Russian artist, (1887-1985)

MP900432886Tip 3: Love vibrantly, and live a meaningful life. Color dominated Chagall’s works. It’s probably natural he would view what he believed about love through color. Chagall married his fiancée after a twelve-year engagement.

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The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.”  —Charles Dickens—English novelist (1812-1870)

DickensTip 4: Love first, and then create. At age twelve for three years, Dickens lived in the world of the working poor in appalling conditions. He never forgot his plight and in loving sympathy for children of the poor, created characters like Oliver Twist and David Copperfield. He was known as a spokesman for the poor and oppressed. His quote reminds me of the verses in the Bible that tell us God, our creator, knew and loved us before we existed.

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“To love is not to look at one another, but to look together in the same direction.”  —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry —French novelist/poet/aviator (1900-1944)

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tip 5: Love unity, and together, look to the future. I wonder if Saint-Exupéry learned the lesson he espouses from his failed relationships. His fiancée’s family objected to his flying, and he took a desk job, only returning to aviation after the engagement dissolved. His marriage to a widow, his muse and his source of torment, was a volatile marriage.

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Happy Valentines Day. What thoughts on love can you add?

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