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317 Posts tagged with the craft tag

I have long been a proponent of "reader blindness" when it comes to writing. That is to say, I don't think that writers should consider readers when they write novels. I believe doing so compromises the quality of the writing.

But let's talk about rewriting. Should you consider your readers when you rewrite your novel? At the risk of contradicting my earlier statement, I think you should. In fact, I think it's impossible not to consider readers during the rewriting stage. I say this because most of my major rewrites have come after I've received feedback from a reader or two or three or four pre-publication.

These early readers will let me know what worked and what didn't. They have been chosen by me because I trust them to give me constructive criticism. The implication of me asking for their feedback suggests that I will consider their opinions when I rewrite. They represent all readers.

By considering the reader, I don't mean catering your story to meet their expectations. I mean to make sure that your prose is palpable, concise, engaging, that you've crafted a story they can follow with deep, rich, multi-dimensional characters and limited exposition. This is how you protect the integrity of your art but still take your readers into consideration at the same time.

Your first draft is done with your blinders on. It's the story that dictates the words, path, and structure of the book. Your rewrite is done with the blinders off. Now your job is to take readers into consideration and to do so without compromising your artistic integrity.


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


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Stage five of writing - gut or beta


The perils of rewriting



934 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, writers, readers, writing, craft, rewrites, writing_advice

Write o'clock

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 11, 2016

If you read this blog frequently, you know I'm big into self-assessment. I think examining your progress as a writer is important for you to understand yourself as an artist. In that examination, it's important, I believe, for you to study your habits, both bad and good.


For the next few weeks, you are a scientist. You are a behaviorist studying the writer part of you in your natural habitat, and you are going to throw yourself curve balls to see how you respond. Primarily, you are trying to determine the time of day you are most productive. It's a question you've probably gotten before, but you may not have known the answer because you are a busy person, and you just write when you find some free time.


As true as that is, I believe strongly that it benefits you to find the best time of day for you to write. When you find it, you will find your writing space. By that I mean, the space in your head where you feel more relaxed, more confident, and more connected to the ethereal world where fictional characters live out their fictional lives.


Test yourself. Schedule to write in the morning a few days in a row. Rate the experience. How many words did you write? What is the quality of those words? How did you feel during each writing session? How did you feel after? Switch the time of day to the evening. Go through the same evaluation.


Do this routine for a couple of weeks, switching back and forth between the time periods. Be as specific as you want to be, write for as long as you feel the creative juices flowing. If they are flowing more freely during one time period more than another, you most likely have your answer as to what time of day is your ideal time to write.


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

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Is the Early Bird More Creative?

The Power of the Mindless Task

792 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, craft, writing_schedule, creative_writing


I've written more than once in this space about the maddening (yet seemingly ubiquitous) trend of using "I" when "me" is the correct pronoun. If presidential candidates can't even get it right, I wonder what hope there is for my good grammar crusade. But I refuse to give up!

While not as common as the I/me error, nearly every day I hear someone make a similar mistake regarding she/her and he/him. Here's a refresher lesson about the difference:

"He" and "she" are subject pronouns. A subject does something.

  • Gloria goes to the store. (Gloria is the subject)
  • She goes to the store. (She is the subject)
  • David makes me laugh. (David is the subject)
  • He makes me laugh. (He is the subject)

"Him" and "her" are object pronouns. Objects have something done to them.

  • I saw Gloria. (Gloria is the direct object)
  • I saw her. (Her is the direct object)
  • I gave David the letter. (David is the indirect object)
  • I gave him the letter. (Him is the indirect object)

The above examples are pretty obvious to the ear. It would sound jarring if someone were to say, "Her goes to the store," or "I gave he the letter," right? Where people run into trouble is when there is more than one object in the sentence. For example:

  • I took a photo of David and Gloria.
  • I took a photo of him and Gloria. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he and Gloria. (INCORRECT)

To some ears the third option above might sound right, but it's not. Let's remove the second object in the sentence, which in this case is Gloria:

  • I took a photo of David.
  • I took a photo of him. (CORRECT)
  • I took a photo of he. (INCORRECT)


In the above examples, the answer again becomes obvious, right? So, remember this: When in doubt, take Gloria out!


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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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Grammar tip: How to use gerunds correctly


Grammar tip: Have gone, not have went





1,102 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, craft, grammar, writing_advice, grammar_tip, grammar_tips, grammar_rules

Data dump day

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 5, 2016


Your head is full. All those ideas keep coming, and you just keep packing them away in every corner of your gray matter. You have so many story and character ideas soaring in and out of the blue you may even find it distracting. If you're working on a self-imposed deadline to finish your latest book, it can be a little maddening. So, what is a prolific author to do?


Pick a day of the week to do a data dump. I actually got this idea from my therapist. It's a way of unburdening yourself from the stress of everyday life. You sit at your desk and you write down every thought in your head in a stream of consciousness style. You don't worry about sentence structure or even if a thought is particularly coherent. You just unload your thoughts.


The same idea applies to unloading the creative clutter in a data dump. Spend an hour on a day of the week where you rarely feel productive (we all have those days), and just let the ideas drain from your head. Just let it go. Don't judge the ideas. Don't evaluate them in any way. Just let them fall out of your head and into your data dump journal.


Later, when you're ready to start a new project, consult your data dump journal and look for a gem of an idea that you can use to kick-start your next book. It's there. I promise you. Even if it's not expressly written down, your next book is in that jumbled mess of words.


Your brain is in constant motion. It pushes ideas from neuron to neuron. The data dump journal is a map of those traveling ideas. This map will help you find your way to your next book.


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



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The power of a mindless task


Smell that creativity





875 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, creativity, craft, writing_ideas, creative_process

I have a love/hate relationship with rules when it comes to writing. I'm an artist. Rules, I once believed, were the destroyers of art. I know now that rules are the sparks that twist the creative mind into finding solutions to be artistic without breaking the rules. One must find the creative wherewithal to adhere to the rules while remaining true to one's artistic sensibilities. That is a neat trick when it's pulled off.

To that end, I would like to introduce you to my four rules for writing a novel. They are my own personal guidelines that help me be consistent while forcing myself to be more creative.

  1. A protagonist has to have a dark side: I just think heroes are more interesting when they aren't perfect. I don't like characters that don't have to face their own moral dilemma at some point in the story. It helps me dive deep into character development and paint a more realistic picture of the good guy (that's the gender neutral form of "guy").
  2. Warts are more interesting: I don't connect with beautiful people, mainly because I can't relate. My stories rely heavily on my characters' imperfections. Warts are far more fascinating to me than beauty marks.
  3. Conversations don't follow a straight line: In real life, when people talk to one another, they don't always listen to one another. The dialogue veers from alternate point to alternate point before the original point ever finds its footing. This is the type of dialogue I like to include in my novels. It's more realistic, and it gives the characters more depth.
  4. Know the ending before you start writing: While I have created outlines, I don't believe they are necessary in order to write a novel. I do think it behooves you, however, to know the ending of your story before you start writing, or at the very least, before you meander pointlessly until you finally figure out what your story's about. Knowing where you're going helps you build steps to the ending.

These are my rules for writing a novel. What are yours?

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

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When do you know the ending?

Creating a bad good guy

1,609 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, craft, rules_for_writing

Bad writing habits

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jun 6, 2016

Before you can address a problem, you must first recognize what the problem is. Take ownership of your bad writing habits. Face them, and overcome them. It's not easy to either identify them or conquer them, but with persistence, it is possible.


To set an example and kick things off, I'm going to list my bad writing habits and my best solution for each. Some of you, I'm sure, will relate to my list.


  1. Procrastination: It is the writing demon I struggle with the most. The focus it takes to write is exhausting, and sometimes the thought of diving deep into a story tires me out before I even sit down at the computer. I have found the best way to overcome procrastination is to split my writing day into fours. I commit to writing a modest number of words--500 or so--each session, and then I walk away feeling good about reaching my goals.
  2. Lazy writing: I know grammar, and I know how to spell. Most of the time I avoid major mistakes, but every once in a while, I'll get lazy and let typos and bad grammar slip through, and it is embarrassing. It was really a problem in the early part of my career. I've learned to read and re-read and re-read everything I write now before I commit it to submission. And when I read, I do so aloud
  3. Doubt: Whether it's questioning my skill or my choices, doubt always seems to creep into my writing time. It creates the hardest bad habit to overcome: over-thinking. It's not something you defeat right out of the gate. It takes time for a writer to gain confidence enough to trust his or her instincts. The trick is to keep writing and hone your skill.


Bad writing habits are pesky little buggers, but with self-awareness and determination, you can overcome them.


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

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Strategies to Beat Procrastination

Are Writing Rituals Good or Bad?


2,178 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, craft, writing_tips, authro_adivce

     It sounds like a stupid question. What purpose do writing rituals serve? Duh. They make you more productive, right? Yes, overall that’s the effect, but the question is why do writing rituals make you more productive? There are a few notable reasons for this;

  1. Comfort: Rituals provide a comfort zone of sorts for writers. They provide a space (both physical and mental) that puts an author at ease. When an author is more at ease, it’s just common sense that he or she will be more productive.
  2. Discipline: Rituals are disciplines in disguise. When you get up at 4:00 a.m. to write because that’s your ritual, you are a disciplined writer. When you write 500 words before you take a break, that’s discipline. When you meditate before you write, that’s discipline.
  3. Strategy: Rituals are building blocks to your overall goal. When you set a goal to write a 50,000 word manuscript in 30 days, you probably put a strategy in place to help you reach that goal. That strategy consists of rituals you will follow to hit the 50,000 word mark.
  4. Control: Rituals are your way of controlling the process. When you’re in control, you’re more confident, and you’re more productive.

Rituals make you more productive because they help you focus. They strip you of the stress of having to deal with the unfamiliar. They aren’t for everyone. Some authors use the unfamiliar to help get the creative juices flowing, but many authors like the structure that rituals provide them, and it makes them more productive.

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

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The Rituals of a Writer's Life

Are Writing Rituals Good or Bad?

1,197 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, help, writing, craft, writing_tips, author_tips, author_advice

Culture profile

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger May 23, 2016

I have plans for a book that, in part at least, takes place in Bolivia. I'm a huge Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fan, and it's my way of paying homage to the classic film. I have a major hurdle to overcome first. My knowledge of the country and region is based solely on the 1969 film starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.


Obviously, that means I have some studying to do. My goal as a writer is to avoid creating characters that are stereotypes. My view on stereotypes is that they don't provide the kind of depth one needs to develop a character readers will really connect with. Instead, I want to develop Bolivian characters that are modeled using cultural norms and cultural deviations that test those norms.


Now, I currently don't have the resources to travel to Bolivia and do a field study. I will have to rely on books, articles, and videos to find the knowledge I seek. I will create a file on my computer that will be called "Bolivian Culture," and I will start collecting material. Before I even sketch out the plot for the book, I will create character profiles for the Bolivians who will be in my book. I'll do a general outline for secondary and background characters, and I'll do a more detailed summary of the main Bolivian characters. That's where the cultural deviations will come into play. Conflict is crucial to creating multidimensional characters. The practices outside of what is widely accepted as a cultural norm are a great place to find conflict to fully develop a character.


When writing characters that come from a different culture than you, steer clear of stereotypes. Dive deeper and do your homework in order to create a culture profile that will give your characters depth.


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

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Give your characters virtual depth

Start a dialogue with your characters

711 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, characters, craft, character_development, writing_advice, character_arcs

I listened to an archived public radio interview with the late David Foster Wallace not long ago, and he made an interesting statement about his writing process. He said that he spent approximately an hour a day writing, then he spent the rest of the day worrying about not writing. Hearing a legendary talent make such a statement made me feel so much better about my own process. Every time I step away from the computer, I kick myself for not writing. I worry that I haven't written enough for the day.


Here's what I've come to believe: worrying about not writing is essentially writing. My mind's eye instinctively latches onto a point of the story I walked away from, and I, almost in a panic, focus on what's going to happen next. I replay it over and over again, adding details as I return to the starting point and play the scene out to its conclusion. I wouldn't do that if I wasn't worried about not writing.


So, this is strange to say, but I'm thankful for this almost obsessive inability to let go of the guilt of not writing enough. Without it, I might not be able to construct a story. I might not ever be able to develop my characters, or plot out conflicts and conclusions. If I didn't worry about not writing, I might never write.


So, to you, my fellow writers, I say embrace that worried feeling that you're not writing enough. It's all part of the writing process.


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


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Life Outside of Writing

Is There Value in Formulaic Writing?

1,167 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, writer, writing, craft, writing_tips, writing_advice

I have a book that will be released in July of 2016, and it's a bit of a different experience for me than my previous publishing adventures because I have no immediate plans to release it in print. Long story short, this is a team project, and I don't have the final say on the format. Hopefully, I can expand it into print, but for now, I have to think strictly eBook.


That is a bit of a mind shift for me. For a number of years, I have been doing releases in both eBook and print formats. The print copies have always been an easy marketing tool for me. I could take a number of copies with me to appearances or events and devise giveaways to boost enthusiasm for a new release. Online marketing is great, but the personal appearance is still king when it comes to connecting with readers.


I have committed to doing a book launch for this new eBook release that involves a personal appearance, and it has presented me with a bit of a puzzle. How do I get people excited at an appearance when I won't have a book to appear with?


At a recent workshop for playwrights, as I watched staged readings of other writers' work, it hit me. I don't need the book. I just need the story. I went home and hammered out a plan for an appearance that involves short dramatic readings of chapters using local actors. I will involve other writers I know to adapt and direct the material for these staged readings. I'll incorporate door prizes that fit the theme of the book for the audience. I'll make it an invitation-only intimate affair with a number of nonprofessional social media savvy friends in attendance. I have to say it is the first of my appearances that will be more about the people attending and performing than it will be about me, and I'm so excited by that. They will take ownership of my story, and the marketing of the eBook. My hope is that it will translate into a frontloaded wave of word-of-mouth buzz that will grow over time.


Don't ditch the personal appearance if you're planning an eBook-only release. Find a way to get attendees at the event engaged and enthusiastic, so they will spread the word via their social media platforms.


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


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How to Make a Personal Appearance a Success

How to Make an Author Event Eventful

1,722 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, selling, book, print, kindle, ebook, craft, online_marketing, book_launch, book_launch_party

Your Average Reader

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 9, 2015

Read any advice about marketing, and you will invariably find a common refrain: know your average reader. That's easy to write, but how do you know whom your average reader is or where your average reader can be found? Here is my best advice on how to easily locate your average reader.


  1. Genre: Your book belongs to a certain genre, and that is great news. Genres come with baseline demographics. True, it won't provide a representation of every reader you want to reach, but it gives you a good indication of whom your average reader is.

  2. Other Books: As original as your book may be, it still bears some similarity to other books. Again, that is great news, particularly if the book was a bestseller. You will more than likely find fan groups online, and you will get an ideal virtual snapshot of your average reader.

  3. The Mirror: Provided you haven't written a young adult novel or a book for children, your average reader could look and act a lot like you. After all, the odds are you wrote with passion, and that passion came from being a fan before you started writing your first book. Reverse engineer your own habits and hangouts.

  4. Subject Matter: Let's say you've written a crime novel featuring a protagonist who psychically communicates with cats. You, my friend, have a niche book, and niche books have well defined average readers. I'm guessing it would take you no time at all on a search engine to find groups that are fascinated by cats with psychic abilities.


Once you've found your average readers, reaching out is a matter of getting involved in their online communities and introducing yourself as an author. Don't push. Participate. Be a valued member of their communities, and they will become curious until they aren't just average readers, but your readers.


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





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Find Smaller Markets to Sell More Books

It's Not Just a Hobby, It's a Marketing Opportunity

4,037 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, selling, readers, writing, craft, branding, target_audience


Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 25, 2015

What makes someone successful? How does someone make it to that next level? It's a question I ask myself as an author all the time. How did famous author John Doe go from unknown to mid-list to well known? Is he a better writer than me? Is he luckier? Is he more handsome? When somebody makes it and you don't, you either pick apart their success or you pick apart your lack of success.


As somebody who's studied the issue ad nauseam, I think I've uncovered the formula for succeeding as an author. Talent and luck do play a factor, no doubt. But the driving force behind success for an author, for an athlete, for a politician, for a manager of a grocery store is competency. Knowing your craft, knowing the market, knowing your genre, knowing your readers, these are all the building blocks of competency. Competency doesn't happen by accident. It's a consequence of focus. Once you possess this competency, your marketing efforts will become a bit more effortless and a lot more effective.


Notice I didn't use the word confidence. Confidence and competency are two different things. You can be confident and lack competency. However, very few competent people lack confidence. So, yes, I think confidence is key to success, but only if it's born out of one's competence. Confidence without the competency anchor isn't a reliable ingredient for lasting success.


So, get the focus. Concentrate on improving your craft. Develop the curiosity to know your readers. Study your genre. Do these things, and the competency will follow. Soon after comes the success.


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

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How to be a Confident Writer

How to Find Success

1,687 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, promotion, sales, writing, success, craft, author_advice

The best way to grow as a writer is to invest in your writing. Here are three ways you can do just that:


  1. Buy a book on grammar and editing: I know, I know. Why do you need a book on grammar and editing when that kind of information is at your fingertips online? I'm a supporter of something I call "tactile commitment." When you own the information in book form, it's my belief that you'll be more likely to reference it. Don't worry; this isn't the part where I link to a book on the topic that I've written or get commission for selling. The decision of which book to own is yours. All I want to do is encourage you to make such a book a part of your permanent library.
  2. Take a creative writing class or join a writing workshop: One of the best investments I've ever made has been the investment of time spent learning from other writers. I meet with two different groups every month. In the meetings I read my own new material and critique material written by other authors. It's a supportive and constructive environment. I get the benefit of improving my material and forming relationships with fellow writers. It's a win-win.
  3. Teach a class or workshop: Contact a library, theater, or independent bookstore and offer to conduct your own workshop. Teach other writers your style and philosophy. You're a writer. Spread the knowledge. You will more than likely learn something invaluable by teaching others.


Your goal as an artist is to improve. The only way to improve is to make an investment in your craft. As you can see, from a monetary standpoint, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. For the most part, it will cost you time, but I promise you it will be time well spent.


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

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Why Novelists Should Join a Playwrights' Group

Your How-to-Be-a-Novelist Syllabus

1,768 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, indie, writing, craft

It's a question that doesn't produce a consensus. It's probably even foolish to explore, but that sort of thing has never stopped me before. Let's face it, what makes a book readable has a lot to do with individual tastes. There have been enormous bestsellers that I have found painfully unreadable, and there have been obscure titles that have gained no popular traction that I have devoured over and over again.


So, beyond personal proclivities, what makes a book readable? Yes, character development is a huge consideration. Story structure is pivotal. Setting matters a great deal. But they all pale in comparison to one often overlooked element to a book's readability factor: the writer's passion for the story. A reader can tell when a writer approaches a piece out of a sense of obligation instead of a sense of desire. It's obvious in the language used. There is a nuanced, invisible connectedness between author and story that etches itself into the pages (paper or electronic) when the writer approaches the story from a place of passion. Readers pick up on that. They gravitate toward it. They want to be a part of it.


Writing without passion is probably not something a lot of indie writers have to deal with. But if you sit down to write and the passion isn't there, walk away. Divert your attention toward something that brings you joy. Find a headspace that opens you up to feeling, a hunger to tell your story and get back at it. Write with passion.


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


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When to Walk Away from a Story

Change it Up!

4,457 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, draft, craft, book_writing, indie_authors, author_advice, story_writing, novel_writing

I have homework for you. You can choose to do it or not, but I strongly believe that if you do, it will help you be a better writer. You will practice your craft with a confidence you had not previously known. You will feel an artistic self-worth that will bolster you from word to word as you write your next masterpiece. This isn't a magic assignment. It is one that will simply force you to dive deep into your belief system and examine your internal writer's creed. In short, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, will be incredibly rewarding.


Here's the assignment. Imagine, if you will, that you are a teacher, and you've been asked to develop a syllabus for a class on how to be a successful novelist. You won't just be teaching your students about writing, although that will be a part of it. You will be teaching them about rewriting, editing, branding, marketing, etc. Anything and everything you can think of that makes up the job of today's novelist.


Here's the best part, you get to decide which section counts the most in your fictional class. You have 100% autonomy on this project because you aren't required to show it to anyone. This is simply an assignment to suss out what you truly think makes a novelist.


Now, if you so choose, you could take it one step further and actually put the syllabus to use. You could contact your local library and volunteer to teach a course on how to be a novelist using your syllabus as a guide, but that's not necessary to achieve the ultimate goal here, which is for the novelist to know thyself.


Now, go forth and develop your syllabus. Know thyself.


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


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Consciousness-something within oneself-awareness:

What is it to be a true writer?

1,951 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, selling, book, author, novels, craft, branding, social_media, author_brand, writing_tips, writing_advice, writing_practice
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