John David Kudrick

putting words to work for you

Tag: fiction writing (page 1 of 4)

“Broken people with deep wounds …”

Great line that echoes an idea I continue to share with authors wanting to craft novels with visceral characters who are more than cardboard clichés (since none of us are):

 

The older I get, the more I’ve come to understand that there are no real villains, only broken people with deep wounds who cannot help but to bleed onto others.

Jamie Wright

 

(And the entire blog post is well worth reading too!)

A Poetic Storyteller

Just finished reading the hefty autobiography of Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. As long as it is, I wonder how much got trimmed along the way by the author himself, as Springsteen the songwriter is an incredible poetic storyteller and knows the value and power of words (and music as well) … and it’s not like he could ever include everything anyway (was still sad that the book didn’t talk about his participation in the making of “We Are the World”).

Appreciated that he didn’t hide himself (completely, at least) in telling his story, and offered his usual raw look at life, including his own struggles:

Otherwise, if you’d like to hear/see some of Springsteen in action not only as a performer but most of all as a wordsmith, check out some these favorites of mine, which would be material enough for a writing course on their own:

“Thunder Road” [listen for “There were ghosts in the eyes…” and the next line about Chevrolets — such stark visual word-painting]

“Jungleland” [listen for the line about the barefoot girl — more great imagery thanks to little details]

“Streets of Philadelphia” [opening lines so brutally personal, from the point of view of the narrator: mainly Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Philadelphia, and yet such common emotions for all of us at one time or another in life]

“American Skin (41 Shots)” [tackling a lightning-rod issue with this one … studio version with lyrics here]

“The Ghost of Tom Joad” [kind of a culmination of how he taps into creating music that isn’t afraid to speak to modern culture … studio version with lyrics here]

PS: Found an Apple interview with Springsteen and really liked this line from him when asked about writing a book rather than song lyrics:

“You gotta find the music that’s in the words themselves.”

Sage wisdom for writers of any kind …

Basics of Formatting a Manuscript

Whether you’re planning to indie-publish or try the traditional route, publishers want simply formatted copy that they can easily convert to their house style. You’ll of course want to follow any specific guidelines given to you by a publisher or agent, but even as you craft your manuscript before submitting it for publication, you can ensure your document is going to meet industry expectations.

The following formatting specifications have worked well for my clients in this regard, as these specs provide a clean, neat document that’s easily read and easily transferred into a design program:

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Drowning in Details

In my most recent post, I took a look at how details matter in a novel—to the degree that you may lose readers if you flub up the details in your story. Of course, it’s also possible to make sure you have all the details straight and then go too far with them … as in drowning a reader in the details you give.

Let’s look at an example:

The sun-kissed, billowy-clouded azure sky overhead contrasted starkly with the terrifying obsidian-plated killer android that was sickeningly immune to the 7.62mm M61 150.5-grain armor-piercing rounds that we fired at it in staccato rhythm like there was no tomorrow.

Gurgle-gurgle … Blub-blub … And the reader has gone under. Continue reading

Little Details Can Make a Big Difference

Every so often, a novelist should make it a point to remember that most readers have about 54,000 other things they could be doing instead of reading a book. A novel will only hold your reader’s attention ahead of all those other things if it’s truly worth reading.

Aside from all the various mechanics and methods of writing that can turn off a reader, one item sure to doom your novel is goofing up on so-called little details—especially when you need to include subject matter that may not be familiar to you.

To wit: Continue reading

Another Thought on Writers Conferences

In my most recent post, I touched on why authors should attend a writers conference, focusing on two main reasons: First, it’s a great place to pitch your book to an agent or editor. And, second, it’s a place to be around other people who take writing seriously, allowing you to find new inspiration and encouragement.

In this post, I want to touch on another (multifaceted) reason why writers conferences are a great idea for authors: knowledge.

When you attend a writers conference, you have the opportunity to be empowered with knowledge from at least three sources: speakers, agents/editors, other writers.

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Thoughts on Writers Conferences

One question I encounter somewhat regularly from authors is: “Should I attend a writers conference?”

Before I actually attended a writers conference myself, I would have likely responded with questions about what the author hoped to accomplish by attending, if it would be a financial burden for them, etc. Now, having attended some conferences myself (both as an author and as faculty), I don’t even waste time with such replies, but instead just say, “Yes, go!”

So why should you spend your time, money, and energy on attending a writers conference? I can think of a number of good reasons, and perhaps I’ll blog again to cover all of them, but for now I want to focus on two.

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Keepin’ It Real with Dialogue

It will probably come as no surprise that editors enjoy the written word, which means that most of us wordsmiths not only work with words as a profession, but we also have our noses in books each day for the pure joy of reading. To wit, just the other night, I was re-reading an old trade paperback comic book (X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga) because I think it’s a great story overall, with super artwork to boot.

Anyway, at one point I came across some dialogue that is common enough in comic books because they are such a visual medium, and it reminded me of an issue that I come across all too often in my work as an editor: dialogue that doesn’t sound realistic because it’s so full of backstory and/or information dumps.

Again, in comic books I expect this to some degree because the writers have limited space with captions and word/thought balloons, but I have to admit that it still bugged me a little because it just sounded so unrealistic. When I see it in a novel I’m working on, I flag it and let the writer know that such dialogue will not ring true in a reader’s ears and will feel like a hiccup or speed bump even amidst well-written prose.

Here’s an example: Continue reading

How Do Authors Find Time to Write?

I enjoy working with authors no matter how they approach the task of writing, whether it’s with bubbly joy and passion or steely grit and determination—or, more typically, a combination of both. In any case, these authors have done something that many other wishful writers have only talked and/or daydreamed about: they finished a book, perhaps even several.

And yet most of the authors I work with or know aren’t household names in the world of books, and they’re okay with that. They’re everyday folks, and most of them have full-time jobs. Like the wishful writers who have never completed a book—usually because “I just don’t have the time!”—these authors spend time with a significant other, keep up with family and friends, raise kids, attend church, go to work, see the doctor/dentist, take their cars to the mechanic, cook meals, clean homes, exercise, take care of pets, catch some zzz’s, and the list goes on and on.

So, then, how in the world do these authors find time to write?

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Finding Your Writing Style as a Novelist: Part 2

In the first part of this post, we took a look at an author who lived and died by the plotter/planner method of crafting a novel—a method that had served him well more than once. But when we last saw this author, he’d just read a book on fiction writing that preached the polar opposite of the plotter/planner way: flying by the seat of your pants (aka, the pantser method).

So what did this author do? Did he just dismiss this blasphemous pantser drivel and stick to his guns as a plotter/planner?

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