Friday, November 9, 2007


For all those who have been sending me e-mails asking questions that pertain to writing fiction, please know that I am no expert but I will soon post answers to some of the most "Frequently Asked Questions". They will address the following:

* Tips and exercises for writing* fiction: everything from some of the most fundamental rules of good storytelling, but novel writing in particular; creating realistic and three-dimensional characters; writing dialogue, the role conflict plays, finding your "voice" as a writer etc etc etc

* Reference books and resources for finding literary agents, and the down-and-clean answer to the most-frequently asked question of them all: "How can I get my book published?"

I hope this information will be helpful. I am trying to set up the website/blog so that I can update the exercises regularly, enough so that some of you may end up with the seeds of a novel, or you may be able to see the merits and weaknesses of what you thought was a masterpiece. (Just as an FYI: bestselling authors do this too!)

I'm working on a novel too, and juggling a lot (like everyone else!) so know that I have your best interest at heart, and hope I might be able to help you tell your story. We need them. But we need well-written and compelling stories that are driven by something other than the desire to get rich and famous and on that bestseller list. It doesn't quite work like this. The drive should come from inside your heart and in the pit of your stomach. If you already know the outcome, you're wasting your time. If you're only interested in telling folks what you already know, you're wasting your time. Nobody really cares. If you're writing to convince us of something, nobody really cares. If you're writing to show us how smart you are, nobody really cares. If you're writing simply because you think your life is so interesting and fascinating based on all the tragedies and maladies you've experienced in your young or old life, rest assured, someone else feels exactly the same way about their life (we all do, by the way) but the truth be told, nobody really cares because all of us have been through something that has been difficult to accept or even tolerate, but we do, and many of us have been through our very own designer hell, but it's how we get through the hell that makes for a good story, not simply dragging a reader into it without allowing them the benefit to come into some form of light, otherwise how can a reader emotionally benefit or feel better about their own plight if all you've done is given us the "what" and not the "how". Good stories are made by showing the how not simply the what. Good stories are also life-affirming, otherwise, we could all just watch the news. Besides, most of us believe our lives are much more traumatic or unbelievable or fascinating than the next person, and, that no one can "top" the stuff you've been through or, that no one will believe it. In this era we live in almost anything is believable and it is pretty hard to be shocked. Plus, it doesn't matter if anybody believes you or not. The whole point is to write an honest and compelling and plausible story about a character or characters who could conceivably be real that are forced to overcome or deal with something in their life that (not the entire basement or trunk-full of problems they're facing)they have been avoiding, wish they didn't have to contend with and now cannot avoid, skirt around or skip over, and, whatever it is, will or should have a major impact -- and hopefully a positive one -- on their lives in some non-melodramatic way. They do not have to go from A-Z but A-D might be a start. The idea is that when you finish writing the story, as the writer, you have gone through what your characters have experienced and as the writer, you are hopefully a changed if not better, more empathetic and compassionate person for having written it. Otherwise, you've wasted your time. And the readers.

I hope you don't want to go there.

Good luck in your work and warmest wishes

Terry McMillan

*This will include info relating to grammatical usage, literary terms, etc etc