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July 2015

I have learned over the years that there is a somewhat murky divide in this, the community of novelists. On one side, you have the group that counts themselves as writers. Prose is pieced together with painstaking precision. On the other side there are those that count themselves as storytellers. Here a clever plot structure is valued most. I am of the belief that one style is not better than the other. Both have their readership, and both contribute important works to the world of literature.


So what are you? Writer? Storyteller? Or are you that rarest of animals, both? Here are the distinctions as I seem them.


  • Writer - Think Herman Melville. Think William Faulkner, James Joyce, David Foster Wallace, etc. Writers challenge the reader, not with intricate plots and unexpected twists, but with language and deeply philosophical passages. There is usually more than one meaning to even the simplest of sentences. The writer plants a hidden message within the unfolding story and isn't terribly concerned if the reader ever finds it. The writer's love for words is usually apparent in the way they express themselves on the page.

  • Storyteller - Think Stephen King, Dan Brown, John Grisham, James Patterson, etc. Where writers construct dense prose, storytellers often craft twisting plots with layers of engaging complexity. The language used is, for the most part, simple and straightforward, and the passages rarely wade too deeply into the literary waters. The storyteller loves to enthrall the reader with the unexpected conclusion that leaves them awed and breathless.

I don't mean to say that writers aren't good storytellers and vice versa. I think there is plenty of crossover, but I do think when an author sits down to write a book, they approach it from one of these two vantage points. So, what say you? From which vantage point do you approach a book?


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.





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Storyteller vs. Writer

Write without Judgment

4,480 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: books, book, author, writers, publishing, writing, story, storyteller, telling, writing_advice

Recently, I have joined a playwrights' group to learn how to write for the stage. It's been a blast, and I've enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere the group provides. What I didn't expect to get from this experience is insights on how to improve my writing as a novelist.


The group meets once a month. The playwrights bring ten pages to be read onstage by actors who attend to sharpen their own skills. After each reading, the playwright takes the stage and answers questions from the audience. Here are the benefits I've discovered by participating in an ongoing workshop for playwrights:


  1. The obvious benefit of participating in a playwright group is that there is a premium on dialogue in a piece written for the stage. What you are writing is meant to be said aloud. You'd be surprised how that changes the way you write dialogue. Beyond focusing on the words used by the actors, you consider the rhythm of a conversation. Not only do you want to have impactful dialogue for the actors to say, you want give them clear and concise language to free them up as they perform. It helps you produce cleaner dialogue.

  2. Normally in a playwright group, the facilitators do just that; they facilitate a discussion about your piece after the reading. In my experience, they push the discussion along and keep things organized. I have found that theater people, especially those who serve in a supervisory role, are not short on opinions and advice. Every reading I've participated in, either as the writer, audience member or even "actor," has provided no shortage of discussion. Your piece is dissected and examined in a way that challenges you.

  3. Character development plays a big role in these readings as well. Even though what's normally read is a small portion of a full-length play, the audience will let you know if they connected with your characters or not. They will let you know if the dynamics of the various characters in your scene work.

  4. What's not read will be addressed too. The audience will likely ask you questions that have nothing to do with the scene they saw performed. What comes before or after the scene is a popular topic, and they will want to know what the purpose of the scene you presented serves. How does it move the story along?

  5. Excessive exposition is easy to spot when you hear it read aloud. Those moments in a conversation when one character is explaining what's going on or what's about to happen are painfully obvious as you see actors wade through the dialogue on stage. As you write a novel, you can't help but see it in that context, and you learn to scale back.


I highly encourage writers of fiction in any format to take part in a playwrights' group. The atmosphere helps hone your skills and even helps build your confidence as you see yourself improve over the course of the workshop.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Participate in Online Book Clubs

Be Open to Constructive Criticism

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I once hated the most crucial aspect of writing a book: rewriting a book. Writing a book is a huge investment of time, and it also requires a significant emotional investment. I mean we authors are experiencing many different lives going through conflict after conflict. That kind of thing takes its toll. When I finished a first draft, the last thing I wanted to do was reshape the manuscript.


But as the years (now decades) have passed, rewriting has become my favorite part of writing a book. For one thing, the knowledge going in to a project that mistakes will be corrected in rewrites is so freeing. It helps take a little bit of the sting of perfection out of the first draft. Not only do I not mind if there are holes in a book after the first writing, I happily expect them.


Another thing I've realized is, in a very internal way, I create relationships with these imaginary characters that I think up in my head. We spend hours, days, weeks, months together. Rewriting a book allows me to get to know them better. It allows me to recognize why they were so special to me and helps me dive deeper into their strengths and flaws. It gives me the opportunity to give them depth.


The final thing that has helped me to embrace rewriting is the appreciation I have for a challenge. To essentially rethink parts of a story that took me so long to write is a real challenge that pushes me to develop as an artist.


Rewriting is an opportunity to relax, reconnect, and rethink. How can I not embrace it?


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Use Two Brains for Writing and Rewriting

AAUGH! Rewrites!

5,448 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, writers, revisions, writing, characters, drafts, writing_process, craft

Despite the success I've had with my books, I still experience the same sense of fear every time I begin a new one: What if this one isn't any good? What business do I have trying to write a book?


You'd think after seven novels I would be over this by now, but I'm not--at all! So if you want to write a book but are worried about what people are going to think about the end product, trust me, you're not alone. (I imagine there are some authors out there who never suffer from the occasional bout of anxiety, but probably not many.)


Here's what I recommend: when that feeling of panic hits, take a deep breath and ask yourself why you wanted to write a book in the first place. I'm guessing you wanted to do it for yourself and not for anyone else, right? So who really cares what anyone else thinks? This is what I tell myself when self-doubt begins to creep in. It's not easy, but I try my best.


After several years of speaking with both aspiring and published authors at events across the country, I've come to the conclusion that while a lot of people say they want to write a book someday, or that it would be fun to write a book someday, there is a distinct breed of people out there: those who know they have a book inside them. If that's the case for you, if there's a story you just have to tell, stay true to yourself, and give birth to your book! No matter what happens to the manuscript once it's done, the sense of accomplishment you'll feel for having completed such a monumental goal will be reward enough. I promise.


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at


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One of the basic tenets of life is that growth is a key component of survival. Physically, intellectually, spiritually--growth is how we advance and reach new phases in life. Put another way, change is healthy and at times, necessary.


One of the basic tenets of building a brand, we are told, is consistency. If you look at some of the most successful corporate brands, you'll notice very little variation to their message from year to year or even decade to decade. Coca-Cola is a refreshing drink that makes you feel good. McDonalds provides tasty food that's fast and cheap. Amazon offers a customer-centric, convenient shopping experience with a hugely diverse selection of products and services. The list of successful companies with clearly-defined brand identities goes on and on.


So, the question arises, is what's good for life--growth--bad for brands? After all, growth is change, and change is the antithesis of consistency. The answer is simple. Growth is essential to brand success. Yes, it is change, but it is a gradual change that prevents stagnation, and stagnation is lethal to a brand. The companies I've mentioned above have all adjusted to societal and/or technological advancements, and while their basic messages have remained steadfast, the mechanisms around their messages have been altered significantly.


Building an author brand requires a clever ability to balance consistency and growth. It's not always easy, but here's the great thing about author brands: they follow the path your growth as an artist takes. As your desires to explore and expand your creative nature take hold, your brand comes along for the ride. As long as you're consistently evolving as a writer, your author brand will resist stagnation and be stronger for it.

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The Brand and the Pseudonym

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There was a time when I thought a listicle was a cousin to the icicle, a longer more ominous form of dripping frozen water. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it had something to do with blogging. Listicles are essentially blog posts or online articles that are written in a list format. List plus article equals listicle. They are informative, easy to write, and a great way to attract visitors to your blog.


In the spirit of the listicle format, here's my top five listicles about listicles:

  1. How to Write a Listicle – Just in case you need a guide, here it is in all its simplicity.

  2. 5 Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay, and Why That's OK – With any format that veers from the traditional, there are critics. Wired explains why the listicle is actually a natural fit for the virtual space.

  3. Content Marketing: 3 Tips for Effectively Using "Listicles" – If you're going to do a listicle, you might as well make it count. Blogger Jaimy Ford spells out how to craft a listicle that will be most effective for your brand.

  4. 3 reasons why universities love listicles – Even institutions of higher learning are getting in on the listicle craze.

  5. 6 Important Listicles That Existed Before The Internet Esquire makes the point that listicles aren't as newfangled as the online world thinks.


So, when you're in a jam, and you don't have much time, putting a listicle together can be a quick and fun way to increase visitors to your blog.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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When you first begin working on a book, it's easy to go back and read from the beginning to refresh your memory about key plot points, timelines, character insights, etc. The deeper you get into the writing process, however, the more unwieldy and time-consuming it becomes to read the entire thing. To avoid getting derailed by that habit, I suggest creating a chapter-by-chapter synopsis that you update as you progress. That way you can quickly reference the synopsis as needed instead of spending valuable writing time searching through your manuscript.


To give you an example, here are some snippets from the synopsis I wrote for my novel Wait for the Rain, which came out earlier this year:


Chapter 1- winter Sunday

Daphne is at her house in Columbus waiting for her neighbor, Carol, to take her to the airport for a week trip to St. Mirika to celebrate her 40th birthday with her two best friends from college. We learn that Daphne's ex-husband Brian has recently moved in with his girlfriend, and that the two of them are taking Daphne's 15-year-old daughter Emma skiing for spring break.


Chapter 2- Sunday

On the way to the airport Daphne tells Carol about her friends. Skylar is a successful sales executive in NYC, and KC lives with her husband in Southern California. We learn that Daphne started at the same company as Skylar years ago but quit to get married and have Emma. We also learn that she hasn't seen her friends in years and is anxious about what they will think of her now.


As you can see, the synopsis doesn't have to be pretty, but jotting down the basics will help keep you focused on moving the story forward, which is critical if you want to finish that elusive first draft.


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at


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A Synopsis Can Be Quite Helpful

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It cuts like a knife. It feels like a punch to the gut. It's not fun. I'm, of course, talking about a bad review. We've discussed it many times on this blog, and it comes up frequently in various online communities for writers. Bad reviews hurt, and when we're hurt it feels unfair. I've been there. I know.


But my wife once said something to me that made me see bad reviews in a different light. I released a book a few years ago under a secret penname, and when it came out, the first dozen or so customer reviews were five stars. I was elated and relieved because you never know how a book is going to be received. It was particularly gratifying because no one knew I was the author. I promise I'm not brag-splaining. The downside is coming. One morning, I woke up, and I had a new review. It was three stars. I grumbled and tried to convince myself that three stars isn't bad, and it isn't. I had just gotten spoiled by the early feedback. It took the better part of breakfast to accept the review and move on. By that evening, I was faced with reading a one-star review. There was no convincing myself that was good news. I had failed a reader. It felt horrible.


When my wife got home that evening, I told her about my horror and without skipping a beat she said, "Good. Bad reviews give you legitimacy." I thought she was insane at first, but upon some reflection, I realized she was right. Bad reviews do give you some credibility. Every literary legend suffers the fate of the bad review, and it doesn't make them any less legendary. Bad reviews are battle scars. Accept them for what they are, opinions and nothing more, and as I always advise, whatever you do, don't respond to the reviewer. Doing so can only damage your brand. Just let it go and move on.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Bad Reviews & Great Company

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The hardest part about getting into the habit of creating personal videos is finding topics to talk about. Fear not, for I have a solution to that very dilemma. Here are five prompts for you to use when crafting your next personal video.


  1. What are you reading? You're a writer. You love books. Let your fans know what's on your reading list.
  2. Share a word about your genre. You aren't just a writer. You're a representative of your genre. Give your readers your insight on what your genre means to you. Don't limit it to books. Talk about films and other forms of media in your genre.
  3. What's your typical writing day like? I find it fascinating as a writer to hear how other writers go about the task of writing a book. A lot of your readers are aspiring authors. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to write a novel.
  4. What book has meant the most to you in your life? We all have a book that has changed our lives. What is that book for you? Your fans want to know. It may even be the book that influenced you to become a writer. Why is it so special to you?
  5. Who or what is your muse? Why do you write? We all have our reasons. Some are more clearly defined than others, and your muse may change from book to book, but there is usually something that was the catalyst for you to jump into indie publishing.


Now that is taken care of, allow me to get you started. Lights. Camera. Action.


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Are you confused about the difference between she/her and he/him? Here's a quick lesson:


She and he are subject pronouns. That means they are the subjects of a sentence, i.e., they represent a person doing something. For example:


  • John wrote a book becomes he wrote a book
  • Maria wrote a book becomes she wrote a book
  • John and Maria co-wrote a book becomes he and she co-wrote a book


Her and him are object pronouns. That means they are the objects of a sentence, i.e., something is being done to them, for them, with them, etc. For example:


  • Maria saw John becomes Maria saw him (him is the direct object here)
  • Maria gave John the book becomes Maria gave him the book (him is the indirect object here)


The above examples are pretty straightforward. Where I've noticed that many people get tripped up is when there is more than one subject in a sentence. For example:


  • Maria and he co-wrote a book (Correct)
  • Maria and him co-wrote a book (Incorrect, but I hear this all the time.)


If, after those examples, you're still confused, try rearranging the subjects:


  • He and Maria co-wrote a book (Correct and sounds correct)
  • Him and Maria co-wrote a book (Incorrect and sounds weird, right?)


If you're still furrowing your brow about whether to use him/her or he/she when you have two subjects, try dropping one of the subjects:


  • She wrote a book (Correct and sounds normal, right?)
  • He wrote a book (Correct and sounds normal, right?)
  • Her wrote a book (Incorrect and sounds super weird, right?)
  • Him wrote a book (Incorrect and sounds super weird, right?)


I hope the above examples help. We all know the basics, so when you're confused, bring it back to that. Your ear should guide you.


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at



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The thrills, the chills, the pressure cannot exist in a suspense novel without a cost. That cost is what drives the protagonist to take risks they normally wouldn't take. That cost is ever-present. The cost is the thump-thump-thump of pulse-pounding action. The cost must be reckoned with in a novel with suspense at its core. Without a cost for failure, there's no payoff if the protagonist succeeds. The cost has to be high, and the odds for success have to be low.


Here are the three types of costs that I've observed as a fan and writer of novels that use suspense as an element of story:

  1. A loved one – There may be no higher stake than the life of a protagonist's loved one. Failure means a romantic interest or familial relation will die. The pressure is palpable. The protagonist cares nothing about his own safety. He will gladly give his life to save his loved one.

  2. It's personal – The bad guy wants blood, but this time it's personal. The protagonist's own life is at stake. If she fails, it's lights out. The clock is ticking. Will she succeed or die?

  3. Going global – The nuclear bomb is counting down. Disarm it, and thousands of lives are saved and a global disaster is averted. If the protagonist lets the timer hit zero, all is lost.


So, next time you set out to write a suspense novel, ask yourself two questions before you begin. What is the cost of failure, and what are the odds of success?


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The Time-Sensitive Plot Device

Mystery, Thriller, or Suspense?

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The best way to make a signing successful is to make it an event. Here are five tips to make your next appearance eventful:


  1. Use a wrangler. Bring a friend or family member along who can wrangle in passersby and get them excited about meeting an author. Find someone who is outgoing and energetic. Compensate them in some way, and show them gratitude at the end of the event. Make sure they know the one-sentence pitch for your book.
  2. Bring a bowl of hard candy to place on your table. It's an icebreaker and a cheap gesture of goodwill to all these strangers you're meeting. It's also a way to get them to smile, which will be needed for the next item on our list.
  3. Hire a photographer. Whether it's a friend with a smartphone or a professional photographer with a DSLR camera, have someone there snapping photos. Let everyone know you'll be posting the photos to your social media sites, and invite them to follow and/or friend you.
  4. Come bearing gifts. Reward those who visited your table with an opportunity to win a free gift in a drawing later in the day. It can be a gift card, an e-reader or a free copy of your next book. They don't have to be present to win, but they do have to provide their contact information to receive the free gift.
  5. Bring signage. Don't just set up a table. Place professional grade signs throughout the venue to let everyone know there's an author on the premises. Work out the particulars with the management to make sure you're not violating any rules.


One last piece of advice - after an event/signing, make sure you leave the employees and management happy. Write them thank you notes. Maybe even bring them donuts the next morning to make them feel appreciated. You may want to come back some day, or you may want a reference from the venue for your next event.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Preparing for a Personal Appearance

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