O'Reilly logo

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Author In Progress

Book Description

Empower your writing through craft and community!

Writing can be a lonely profession plagued by blind stumbles, writer's block, and despair--but it doesn't have to be. Written by members of the popular Writer Unboxed website, Author in Progress is filled with practical, candid essays to help you reach the next rung on the publishing ladder. By tracking your creative journey from first draft to completion and beyond, you can improve your craft, find your community, and overcome the mental barriers that stand in the way of success.

Author in Progress is the perfect no-nonsense guide for excelling at every step of the novel-writing process, from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication.

Featuring essays by best-selling authors, editors, and industry leaders:
 
Porter Anderson
Julianna Baggott
Brunonia Barry
James Scott Bell
Tom Bentley
Sharon Bially
Dan Blank
Anne Greenwood Brown
Kim Bullock
Sarah Callender
David Corbett
Kathryn Craft
Lisa Cron
Keith Cronin
Margaret Dilloway
Jo Eberhardt
Anna Elliott
Bill Ferris
Jane Friedman
Tracy Hahn-Burkett
Gwen Hernandez
Kristan Hoffman
Steven James
Dave King
Jeanne Kisacky
Robin LaFevers
Allie Larkin
Erika Liodice
Donald Maass
Sophie Masson
Greer Macallister
Juliet Marillier
Julia Munroe Martin
Sarah McCoy
Kathleen McCleary
Jael McHenry
Catherine McKenzie
Liz Michalski
Annie Neugebauer
Jan O’Hara
Barbara O’Neal
Ray Rhamey
Erika Robuck
M.J. Rose
Vaughn Roycroft
Lancelot Schaubert
Susan Spann
Victoria Strauss
John Vorhaus
Therese Walsh
Heather Webb
Cathy Yardley

"Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." --James Scott Bell, best-selling author and writing instructor

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Dedication and Acknowledgments
    1. Dedication
    2. Acknowledgments
  4. Foreword
  5. Introduction
  6. Part One: Prepare
    1. Why Write?
      1. CONSIDER WHY YOU DO THIS
      2. EMBRACE STORIES
    2. Setting Realistic Goals
      1. ACCOUNT FOR YOUR U-FACTOR
      2. BEGIN WITH SELF-ASSESSMENT
      3. BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF “U”
    3. Stocking Up on Literary Gatorade
      1. IGNORE THE STOPWATCH
      2. FIGHT THROUGH THE DOWNS
      3. KEEP WORKING
      4. RESEARCH RETREATS
      5. READ
      6. KNOW YOU’RE NOT ALONE IN THE GATORADE CLUB
    4. Community Conversation: Your Unique Story
      1. FIND YOUR MOST AUTHENTIC VOICE
      2. DIG DEEPER
      3. IDENTIFY YOUR UNIQUE SPIN
    5. Being Unboxed
      1. AVOID SNARES, TRAPS, AND BOXES
      2. UNBOX YOUR THINKING
      3. LEARN TO LIVE WITH CONTRADICTIONS
      4. HAVE UNBOXED FAITH
    6. Put a Ring on It
      1. PLAY THE FIELD
      2. PICK A PARTNER
      3. UNDERSTAND IT WON’T ALWAYS BE SUNNY
      4. START YOUR JOURNEY
    7. Debatable: Do You Need an MFA?
      1. HEAR IT LIKE IT IS
      2. GET THE DEADLINE YOU CAN’T IGNORE
      3. LEARN THROUGH DIVERSE OPPORTUNITIES
      4. CONSIDER WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
    8. Debatable: Do You Need an MFA?
      1. CONSIDER THE ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST
      2. LEARN YOUR CRAFT, AND PUT IN THE TIME
      3. ASK YOURSELF A FEW KEY QUESTIONS
    9. Mining for Diamonds
      1. CONSIDER THE ROLE OF FACT IN FICTION
      2. KNOW WHEN TO STEP AWAY
      3. DEFINE THE EDGES AND THE SHAPE OF THE UNIVERSE
      4. BEWARE OF FUSSING OVER THE FUSSY
      5. INTERVIEW AND OBSERVE
    10. Eye on the Prize: Go Public
      1. TALK ABOUT IT—NOW
      2. COMMIT ALL THE WAY
      3. DON’T LET THIS BOOK DEFINE YOU
  7. Part Two: Write
    1. This Is a Test
      1. EMBRACE THE FLAWS OF THE FIRST DRAFT
      2. LET YOURSELF GO WILD
      3. ACCEPT THE GAP—AND MANAGE IT
      4. LET THE BOOK FAIL
    2. Community Conversation: Story First, Plot Second
      1. FIND THE START OF YOUR STORY
      2. CREATE THE PAST TO GIVE MEANING TO THE PRESENT
      3. CONSIDER: WHAT IS A STORY?
      4. DEVELOP YOUR STORY
    3. Debatable: Plot It, or Pants It?
      1. MEET YOUR WRITERLY KINFOLK
      2. LISTEN TO YOUR INTUITION
      3. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
    4. Debatable: Plot It, or Pants It?
      1. DECIDE WHAT THE GOAL IS AND WHO WANTS TO ACHIEVE IT
      2. CREATE YOUR OUTLINE
      3. ESTABLISH YOUR PACING
    5. Write Like You Mean It
      1. BEAT BACK THE BELIEF IN THE “WRITER AS TORTURED ARTIST”
      2. CARVE OUT TIME
      3. PREPARE BEFORE YOU WRITE
      4. KEEP TRACK
      5. SET THE MOOD TO FIND YOUR WAY IN
      6. LEAVE THE WORLD OUTSIDE
      7. EMBRACE YOUR OWN SPEED
    6. Fat or Lean?
      1. WRITE IT SLENDER
      2. WRITE IT FAT
      3. EXPERIMENT WITH YOUR UNION TO PROCESS
    7. Find the Muse Within the Story
      1. RECOGNIZE THE FALSE MUSES
      2. FIND YOUR MUSE
    8. Composing Humans on the Page
      1. MINE MEMORIES
      2. VISUALIZE
      3. PRACTICE EMPATHY
    9. Write True
      1. USE YOUR FIVE SENSES TO EXPERIENCE THE WORLD AROUND YOU
      2. WALK THE GROUND
      3. WALK IN OTHER WORLDS
      4. KEEP DIALOGUE REAL
      5. DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE NATURAL WORLD
    10. Writer’s Block
      1. ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED IT
      2. WRITE FIRST, WORRY LATER
      3. MUSTER YOUR COURAGE
      4. BANISH SELF-DOUBT
      5. CONSIDER THAT REJECTION DOES NOT EQUAL FAILURE
      6. PREPARE FOR SUCCESS
    11. Light It Up—Don’t Burn It Down
      1. REKINDLE THE SPARK
      2. WRITE DIRTY
      3. CUE THE WORDS
      4. COMMIT TO YOURSELF
    12. Say My Name
      1. SHOUT IT OUT
      2. BE PREPARED
      3. FIGHT IMPOSTER SYNDROME
      4. OWN IT
  8. Part Three: Invite
    1. The Psychology of Critique
      1. RECOGNIZE THE FAR-REACHING BENEFITS OF CRITIQUE
      2. WELCOME DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES
      3. RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN OR DEFEND
    2. The Art of the Invitation
      1. ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED
      2. SET BOUNDARIES
      3. GUIDE THE TONE
    3. Reading the Tea Leaves of Critique
      1. STOP. BREATHE. WAIT.
      2. WORK FROM YOUR CORE
      3. CHOOSE YOUR SOLUTIONS
      4. INTERROGATE YOUR DEFENSE
    4. Creating Conversations with Story Evolutionists
      1. FIND FRESH EYES NEARBY
      2. RECRUIT A FOCUS GROUP
      3. FIND THE RIGHT BOOK CLUB
      4. ENCOURAGE HONESTY
      5. CREATE A LIST OF SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
      6. ASK THE PERFECT QUESTION
    5. Community Conversation: Illuminations of Theme
      1. FIND YOUR THEME
      2. UNDERSTAND HOW THEMES MANIFEST IN STORIES
      3. DISCERN THE THEMES IN YOUR WORK THROUGH CRITIQUE
      4. USE THE THEME TO FOCUS REVISIONS
      5. FACE THE CRITIQUE, DEVELOP IT, AND IMPROVE YOUR WRITING ALONG WITH YOUR SKILL SET
    6. Eye on the Prize: Skin Like an Elephant
      1. GATHER AROUND: WORKSHOP 101
      2. LISTEN TO THE PROS(E)
      3. LEARN FROM THE WRITER SAFARI
    7. Giving Back
      1. HELP SOMEBODY WRITE A BETTER BOOK
      2. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR GUT
      3. RINSE AND REPEAT … AND IMPROVE
      4. GET READY TO MAKE YOUR MARK
      5. BREAK IT TO THEM GENTLY
      6. GIVE THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
  9. Part Four: Improve
    1. Debatable: How Much Craft Do You Need?
      1. STRIVE FOR A STRIVER’S MIND-SET
      2. ATTEND DELIBERATELY TO THE ESSENTIALS
      3. UPDATE AND CUSTOMIZE YOUR UNIQUE TOOLBOX
    2. Community Conversation: A Drop of Imitation
      1. ANALYZE WRITING YOU LOVE
      2. READ AS A WRITER
      3. CONSULT WRITING GURUS
      4. BROADEN YOUR SCOPE
      5. SNAP UP A TRIED-AND-TRUE RECIPE
    3. Where Writers Gather
      1. CONSIDER WHAT YOU WANT TO LEARN
      2. CONSIDER WHO YOU WANT TO MEET
      3. CONSIDER YOUR BUDGET
      4. CONSIDER YOUR ENJOYMENT
      5. GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MONEY
      6. REEVALUATE AS YOUR GOALS CHANGE
    4. Reading People (and Writing Them, Too)
      1. DIG UP HUMAN DETAILS, DIALOGUE, AND CONFLICT DIRECTIONS
      2. READ YOUR PEOPLE, AND WRITE WHAT YOU READ
    5. Eye on the Prize: Driven to Digital Distraction
      1. GO FORTH, AND MARKET THYSELF
      2. CLASS UP YOUR ACT WITH SOME BUSINESS SAVVY
      3. FACE THE WALL
      4. EMBRACE THE DIGITAL DYNAMIC, EVEN BEFORE YOU PUBLISH
  10. Part Five: Rewrite
    1. Power Down
      1. PRINT IT OUT
      2. SPREAD IT OUT
      3. MAKE A MIND MAP
      4. HANG UP A GEOGRAPHICAL MAP
      5. OFFICE-SUPPLY THE HECK OUT OF IT
      6. SET IT IN TIME
      7. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
    2. Writing by Ear
      1. HEAR THE MUSIC OF WORDS
      2. STRETCH OR SHRINK YOUR SENTENCES
      3. NOTE THE SHAPE OF SOUND
    3. Leveling Up
      1. LEAN INTO YOUR STRENGTHS
      2. PRACTICE METAPHORS AND OTHER COMPARISONS
      3. USE SYMBOLS TO ADD MEANING
      4. DROP HINTS, GIVE CLUES
      5. MAKE SECONDARY CHARACTERS COUNT
      6. INTEGRATE QUIRKS, TICS, AND FLAWS
      7. REVISE IN DRAFTS, AND MAKE THE ROUNDS
      8. HAVE PATIENCE—WRITING IS ART
      9. GROW, EXPAND, AND REACH FOR THE STARS
    4. Letting Go of the Reins
    5. A Mechanic’s Guide to Revisions
      1. TEST THE ENGINE
      2. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL THE PIECES
      3. MAKE SURE ALL THE PIECES ARE CONNECTED
      4. TUNE UP YOUR STORY TO SMOOTH OUT THE RIDE
      5. DO SOME BODYWORK
      6. TAKE IT TO THE CAR WASH
      7. REPEAT AS NEEDED
    6. Debatable: Do You Need a Professional Editor?
      1. APPRAISE YOUR EDITING NEEDS HONESTLY
      2. UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF HIGH-LEVEL EDITORS
      3. KNOW WHEN TO EMPLOY A SURFACE-LEVEL EDITOR
      4. CONSIDER THE RIGHT EDITOR FOR YOU
      5. EVALUATE FREELANCE EDITORS
      6. REVISE, BUT AVOID ENDLESS EDITING
  11. Part Six: Persevere
    1. Community Conversation: Resignation Letters
      1. BE A GEOLOGICAL MOVER AND SHAKER
      2. RECOGNIZE RESISTANCE IN ITS MANY FORMS
      3. CONQUERING RESISTANCE
    2. Envy
      1. PUT AWAY THE MEASURING STICK
      2. SAIL WITH THE TIDE
      3. BORROW LIGHT FROM OTHERS
      4. WALK AWAY FROM THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR
    3. Eye on the Prize: The Health and Maintenance of Writers
      1. ADD COLOR TO YOUR PLATE
      2. MOVE YOUR FEET, GROW YOUR BRAIN
      3. DELETE THE DAIQUIRIS
      4. VAPORIZE THE SMOKES
      5. CREATE AN EXCEPTIONAL BRAIN HOUSED IN AN EXCEPTIONAL BODY
    4. Fueling Your Mind
      1. MAKE ART
      2. SUPPORT ART
      3. EXERCISE—HARD
      4. SPEND TIME IN NATURE
      5. VOLUNTEER
    5. Guest Contributor: Tired Writer, Take Care
      1. ASSESS AGENTS
      2. PONDER PUBLISHERS
      3. SUSS SELF-PUBLISHING SERVICES
      4. APPROACH CONTESTS WITH CARE
      5. WEIGH WRITERS’ SERVICES
      6. BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
    6. On Quitting
      1. EXAMINE YOUR YEARNINGS—AND WHAT SATISFIES THEM
      2. EMBRACE CREATIVE FULFILLMENT, WHATEVER ITS FORM
      3. ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS, AND ROUND OUT YOUR IDENTITY
    7. Community Comfort
      1. FEAST ON THE (SOMETIMES ELUSIVE) BENEFITS OF COMMUNITY
      2. FIND YOUR TRIBE
    8. Battling Doubt
      1. SMOOTH THE RIGHT WRINKLES
      2. TO TRUST YOUR “YES,” HAVE A RELIABLE “NO”
      3. SQUEEZE OUT THE STUPID
      4. KILL THE BEAST
      5. TAKE THE WIN
    9. The Torturous Waiting
      1. DE-EMOTIONALIZE THE PROCESS
      2. TAKE ACTION WHILE WAITING
    10. Eye on the Prize: Surviving "Nearly There"
      1. TRY THIS RATHER THAN QUIT
      2. RETHINK YOUR PLACE IN THE MARKET
      3. ANALYZE THE LANDSCAPE
      4. CONNECT WITH A BIGGER (MORPHING) PICTURE
      5. SHIFT THE FOCUS
  12. Part Seven: Release
    1. Letting Go
      1. IF IT HURTS LIKE A BAD BREAKUP, EMPLOY BREAKUP RULES
      2. REACH OUT TO OTHER WRITERS
      3. CHEAT
      4. ENJOY READER FEEDBACK, BUT KEEP IT IN CHECK
      5. CELEBRATE
    2. Guest Contributor: Great Expectations
      1. HOPE FOR THE BEST, BUT BE REASONABLE
      2. ACKNOWLEDGE ONE THOUSAND SHADES OF SUCCESS
      3. MARRY YOUR HAPPINESS TO YOUR CRAFT
    3. Eye on the Prize: Writer as Phoenix
      1. KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN
      2. KEEP UP WITH WHAT’S AROUND, BUT KEEP THE FAITH
      3. KEEP PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIPS IN GOOD CONDITION
      4. KEEP CONTRIBUTING TO THE WRITING COMMUNITY
      5. KEEP GOOD RECORDS
      6. KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR
    4. Write On
  13. About the Essayists and Contributors
    1. Author in Progress Essayists
    2. Writer Unboxed Community Contributors