The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Nineteen

Fire in Fiction2Welcome to day nineteen of The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway! How do widely published authors keep their stories burning hot? Learn how with The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass.

As a writer you can supercharge every story with deep conviction and, conversely, turn fiery passion into effective story. The Fire in the Fiction shows you not only how to write compelling stories filled with interesting settings and vivid characters, but how to do it over and over again. With examples drawn from current novels, this inspiring guide shows you how to infuse your writing with life.

Author Bio:

Donald MaassDonald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, which he founded in 1980. His books include The Career Novelist and Writing the Breakout Novel. He represents more than 100 fiction writers and sells more than 100 novels per year to top publishers in America and overseas.

If you are new to the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

Today’s question is…

Yesterday I asked about writing nonfiction, today the topic is writing fiction. Here’s some questions:

Have you written or sold any any of your fiction?

Have you thought about writing a novel or participated in NaNoWriMo?

What scares you about writing fiction?

What thrills you?

Give me the goods in 50-200 words, please. 🙂

Before you go! WE HAVE A CAUSE TO RAISE MONEY FOR THIS YEAR! Please read the story about the Applin family here and consider making a small contribution at some point during the giveaway. We’re aiming for $100/day collectively. Please help us help the Applin family adopt two beautiful children from Russia. 🙂


35 Responses to “The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Nineteen”

  1. 1 coffeejitters (Judy Haley) September 19, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Have you written or sold any any of your fiction?
    I haven’t even finished any fiction yet. I tend to lose confidence and start a new project

    Have you thought about writing a novel or participated in NaNoWriMo?
    I have definitely thought about it, but it usually coincides with mid-terms at school and I’m usually pulling all-nighters through the month trying to get caught up with all the studying I should have been doing (yes, I know there will always be an excuse and at some point you just have to do it anyways)

    What scares you about writing fiction?
    I keep finding myself in situations where I no longer like any of my characters. If I don’t like them, why would anyone else?
    Also – Endless possibilities. Anything can happen, it’s all up to me.

    What thrills you?
    Endless possibilities. Anything can happen, it’s all up to me.

  2. 2 Kathy September 19, 2009 at 12:42 am

    To date, I’ve only sold nonfiction articles. Just about three years ago I answered an ad asking for novellas about preteens involved in dance or gymnastics. I answered the ad, and began to write what ended up being almost five novels about a pair of ballet students and their friends, about how hard they work to excel at their art while avoiding the negative consequences of their passion from school and family members.

    I’ve contemplated entering the write a novel in a month program but actually the draft of first novel came spilling out so quickly and easily that I didn’t feel I needed to participate.

    What scares me about writing fiction is the question: an I any good at it? Will anyone else want to read and enjoy it? Or will my characters just find their lives in my head and scribblings?

    During the initial creation of the books, I could hardly awake early enough to get in front of the computer to type out sentences, paragraphs, chapters of the experience my characters encounter.

    This new career change has brought excitement and laughter into my life, as well as many new friends, mainly via the Internet.

  3. 3 Joyce Lansky September 19, 2009 at 5:46 am

    I’ve written a lot of fiction but sold nothing. I have, however, taken second place in a couple of writing contests. In my most recent: first place got “The Fire in Fiction.” I got a pat on the back; SOOOO, I really want this book (since my story was better than the winners anyway ;-).

    I would love to participate in NaNOWriMo. When I get in a roll, I complete a novel in two to three weeks. But why do they do it in November? That is the worst work month for me. I would gladly compete in the summer.

    When it comes to writing fiction, I am Catniss (no fear). Only nonfiction scares me.

    What thrills me? Everything about fiction writing. The best is writing that one seen that I know is fantastic.

    I really want to win THIS book, so I’ll tap my heals three times and say a prayer.

  4. 4 Meryl Evans September 19, 2009 at 5:52 am

    I don’t think I’ve written fiction since my school days. Did it all the time in those days. It’s not that I don’t like writing fiction, but many people do it so well. I’m better off developing my nonfiction writing rather than starting from scratch on fiction. It doesn’t scare me, but I think I would overdo the clichés and not come up with a fresh approach.

  5. 5 lringler September 19, 2009 at 6:11 am

    My last published fiction was in my high school literary magazine. Let’s just say that was quite awhile ago. When I came back to writing post-high school, I had a two-year-old and an infant. Somehow that year I got captured by an idea that led to writing a novel during their one common nap time. It sits on my shelf, while I write non-fiction articles now.

    Lately, a series of events have got me thinking about it again…a friend trying to get me to participate in NaNoWriMo (have never done that before), an inspiring novelist friend, my own novel’s characters bumping around in my head to be turned loose.

    What’s scary is completing such a long project alone. With my non-fiction articles, the cycle is so much shorter from writing to feedback and potential publication. What’s thrilling is getting lost in the writing. And far down the line, that it might find an audience.

  6. 6 Renee Roberson September 19, 2009 at 6:15 am

    I have dabbled in writing fiction since high school, but never took any of it really seriously or worked hard at polishing rough drafts. I have always dreamed of writing a novel (so I guess maybe I should have worked harder at polishing fiction!) and I’m currently working on my first novel. I’ve recently started submitting short stories to writing competitions and trying out the monthly writing prompts in Writer’s Digest. I always say I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo, but the past few years have been heavy with article assignments during that month so those have taken priority. What scares me about writing fiction is how personal it is. I’m not a writer who can just make everything up, so my characters and settings are all imprints from my past. If my work is ever published it will be hard for the shy writer in me to talk about it and explain where everything originated! What thrills me about writing fiction? Living vicariously through my characters! They can make the same mistakes I’ve made in my life, or not. They can fall in love with dangerous people, or take the road less traveled. It’s very exciting.

  7. 7 Kathryn Lang September 19, 2009 at 6:41 am

    I have written several short stories, one novel and am working on my second novel. I have had the work critiqued and I am working on the editing but as of this writing I have not sold any of my fiction.

    I have signed up for NaNo twice and both times I have crashed and burned. Setting aside enough time to write THAT many words in one day (with three homeschool kids running around) seems impossible. I will try again this year and I hope to enlist other writers to participate and maybe encourage my 12 year old to join in. Having the support and encouragement and especially the accountability makes it easier to accomplish my goals.

    The fear that hides in the corners of my thoughts – but that I keep at bay with good, positive and uplifting thoughts – is that I am simply not good enough to be a fiction writer.

    It is exciting to me to have the opportunity to write something that no one else has thought or imagined and to write in a way that I touch the heart, mind or spirit of others.

  8. 8 K9friend1 September 19, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I have sold essays, but have not yet submitted a fiction piece to anything other than contests.

    Writing a novel is something I’ve considered a lot lately. However I have allowed various short stories (that I continue to tweak) to distract me from getting started. I supposed I’m just not sure if I’d be able to handle multiple writing projects…or maybe it’s just an excuse. NaNoWriMo could be the incentive to get me going…maybe this year!

    What scares me most about writing fiction is that what I produce will not measure up to the standards set by authors I enjoy reading. And that sets the bar pretty high.

    The thrilling part of writing fiction is when you write something…even a single paragraph…that you know is really good.

    Wow! What a feeling!

  9. 9 Michelle Mach September 19, 2009 at 7:01 am

    I have published some short fiction in magazines and anthologies. I participated in NaNoWriMo last year for the first time. That event showed me I could be writing more both in terms of time spent and number of words. I can’t believe I wrote 50,000 words in a month while holding a full-time job!

    Fiction is thrilling because unlike real life it feels like you can control events. It’s scary because there is so much good fiction already out there that it’s hard not to wonder whether you measure up.

  10. 10 Donna September 19, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Great questions.

    Fiction is my first love. I LOVE the thought of getting paid to make up lies, which is essentially what fiction writers do. I’ve had a few short stories published in anthologies and literary magazines. I’ve been paid mostly in contributor copies, but a couple times in cash. I also freelance non-fiction writing which pays a little for my time, so I tend to go where the money is. Right now for me it’s in non-fiction.

    The market for short stories hasn’t been great, but I suspect it will pick up after yesterday’s announcement that Oprah’s latest pick,SAY YOU’RE ONE OF THEM by Uwem Akpan, is a selection of short stories. That’s good news for short story writers!

    As far as novels, I’ve been struggling completing a young adult novel. It is about a third of the way finished. I tend to edit as I write, so that slows down my writing process. My problem is lack of focus, along with self-editing as I go. Maybe NaNoWriMo is what I need to get me to “Just Write It,” to get it on paper and edit later.

    What scares me about writing fiction? That I will lose the story or the voices of my characters if I don’t get them down on paper. Some of the story ideas and voices are so fleeting, yet so deserving of being written, I fear if I don’t listen to them and get them down on paper they will be gone.

    What thrills me? Giving a voice to fictional characters and discovering where a story thread will lead. The creative process is truly amazing!
    Donna V.

  11. 11 Cara Holman September 19, 2009 at 8:26 am

    My roots are in creative non-fiction, and all the stories I have sold or otherwise published to date fall firmly in that genre. But lately, I have been making some incursions into writing fiction. It was the very first writing exercise we did in my writing group two-and-a-half years ago that showed me the way.

    We were asked to write something from our childhood, and to include one “lie”, something that was not literally true. An intrinsically honest person, I balked at first, but finally tweaked one tiny little fact of my story. Everyone then had to guess which part of the story wasn’t true, and guess what? No one could of course! I realized that I am the only one who can tell how much what I write is non-fiction.

    The beauty of realistic fiction for me is that I can write stories compelling enough to read like non-fiction, but alter enough details both to protect the privacy of those involved, and very often to improve on the story. So, yes, I’ve been writing fiction more and more, and rather than scaring me, I find the freedom of not always having to stick to the literal truth exhilarating!

  12. 12 Sarah Joyce Bryant September 19, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I am taking a fiction course this semester (my first one) and I am definitely intrigued by the idea of writing fiction. I have written strictly nonfiction and it is definitely a different process. With nonfiction I have everything I need and I have to focus on how to articulate something I already know. Thinking about writing fiction, I have the chance to daydream and manipulate the story however I want in order to make it work.

    I have an idea for a novel, but I have much to learn about writing fiction before I begin. I have thought about starting with writing a short story using this idea and then seeing where it leads. What scares me about fiction? The amazing writers that are already out there writing fiction. I believe it would be very difficult for me to compete against them. What thrills me? Being able to write whatever I want and not have to stick to the facts and only the facts.

  13. 13 Jaymie September 19, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I have not sold any fiction – it is usually harder for me to do fiction, where I have to create the beginning, middle and ending, than nonfiction where I am stating fact or opinion or relating a story that already has all of those things. I thought about doing NaNoWriMo last year, but got a job teaching and didn’t feel like I could start something else. I am thinking about trying it this year, if for no other reason than to say I did it!

  14. 14 Susan Heim September 19, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Have you written or sold any of your fiction? I wrote a lot of fiction in high school, but it was always awful! I think I was trying too hard to copy other authors. I’ve since only written and sold nonfiction works, but am thinking about trying some fiction again.

    Have you thought about writing a novel or participated in NaNoWriMo? Yes, I’ve definitely thought about writing a novel. I would love to! I’m not sure what NaNoWriMo is, though.

    What scares you about writing fiction? I wonder if I have the creativity and imagination to come up with a really compelling story. Good fiction writers have such incredible ideas. Do I have what it takes?

    What thrills you? Reading a book that I just don’t want to put down. It’s so good that I’m disappointed when it ends! And it inspires me to want to write fiction, too, and thrill people the way that I was thrilled.

  15. 15 Karrie Z Myton September 19, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I’ve written several stories and a very rough draft of a middle grade novel.

    I participated in NaNoWriMo last year. It was an absolute blast. I was in China at the time and intrigued by the fact that there were people that far from home cranking out their novels. It really was a wonderful experience. Truthfully, I finished my writing in January but would still consider doing it again just for the thrill.

    I agree with Judy that the endless possibilities are frightening.

    And just like Judy those endless possibilities thrill me. That and the dream of giving someone else the joy of a story well written. Books have done so much for me. And fiction is such a treat when it’s done so very well. I adore learning how that’s done and working toward crafting something thrilling for someone else.

  16. 16 Carrie Ure September 19, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I have never tried writing fiction, and I even find myself reading it less, although I am comfortable with the blurry line between fiction and memoir. Exploring the genre of fiction gets me thinking about how much more clearly truth can sometimes be expressed through a made-up story. The converse also seems to be true, that fact can be more interesting and unbelievable than fiction. It seems that what thrills me the most is the intersecting point between fiction and non-fiction, the fascinating way each of us “sees” our own world and how often it is hard to tell the difference between fact and fiction. I think I might someday try the kind of fiction that tells a personal story, as in Rafael Yglesias’ A Happy Marriage. He wrote the book–a memoir about his marriage after his wife died of cancer–as fiction because he felt he could best get across the truth of their life together if he got the necessary emotional distance. I find this Idea intriguing.

  17. 17 Mar Junge, c3PR September 19, 2009 at 10:02 am

    How can a WriterMama NOT write fiction at some point, surrounded by so much inspiration? Children are walking, talking novels that “say the darndest things” because their viewpoint is so uncluttered.

    If writing nonfiction is cake, writing fiction is the icing. It’s what I do for pleasure, not profit.(But someday that will change.)

    I used to be afraid that I wasn’t good enough. It took me several years of “thinking about it” before I got the courage to take a novel writing class with Floyd Salas, author of Buffalo Nickel, What Now My Love, and his latest book of poetry, Love Bites. Five years of classes and many weekend workshops later, I know how good I am and how good I’m not. The more I learn about plot, character development, and writing in scene, the more I have to learn.

    Over the last year as I expanded my PR agency, my manuscript has gotten dusty. But I plan to do NaNoWriMo this year, as I won a November manuscript review with Kristin Bair O’Keeffe from Thirsty’s spike day and don’t want to waste this incredible opportunity.

  18. 18 Pam Maynard September 19, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I have written and sold a few fiction children’s stories. One was for a Christian kids magazine, the other was for a local NH Kidz Rule USA magazine.
    Writing fiction is fun but can be scary, mainly when you have to make the plot, suspense, characters and whole thing come out believable and readable!
    Fiction is so fun when your 6 year old helps you dream up action, adventure, character names and traits and tie it all together with a plot. It can be scary when your 6 year old comes up with better stories than you!
    I have thought about and even tried writing a novel in a month. Too many other obligations in my life to be able to devote that must time to writing!

  19. 19 Brandy September 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Fiction is what I enjoy writing the most. The characters I create become my friends and I am anxious to see where their paths will take them and me. I have not sold any fiction at this point, mainly because I have been too nervous to try. I have not done NaNoWriMo officially, but the idea spurred me on to do my own version. I didn’t quite accomplish my goals in a month, but I did finish the worst novel ever in about three. It was more or less to prove to myself that I could finish something that involved, and I plowed along regardless. My biggest problem with writing, other than finding the time to do it, is not getting hung up on making every bit of my writing “perfect” before moving ahead. Perfectionism makes it very difficult to complete anything.

  20. 20 Dawn Herring September 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I am in the process of finishing up a novel. My novel is my top fiction priority. Since I’ve written but not completed short stories, I haven’t submitted any fiction for publication. Therefore I haven’t sold any.
    I haven’t participated in NaNoWriMo since it requires a high amount of output in a short period of time.

    Writing fiction can be intimidating, especially when writing a full length story, considering the possible pitfalls of holes in plot and clunky dialogue, and the readiness necessary in writing quality work. I don’t write a scene until I’m ready to. If I try to force it, it’s a very unpleasant experience. I give myself time to ruminate and consider the details: setting, plot, and character development.

    When I see a chapter or portion of the plot come together with depth and clarity, it is a very rewarding experience. I am highly motivated to finish what I’ve started. 🙂

  21. 21 Maribeth September 19, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I just completed a middle-grade fiction novel that I am in the process of trying to sell. I adore writing fiction. To me, there is nothing like creating a world full of characters, destinations and whatever else pops up.
    I have never participated in NaNoWriMo but have friends that have.
    The only thing that scares me about writing fiction is the thought that one day I wouldn’t have anything running through my head to want to write about.
    The biggest thrill I receive is after I complete a chapter. I will read through it and think to myself “where did that come from?” almost as if I was in some type of trance while writing it. To know something good came from a thought that I had is thrilling!

  22. 22 Cat September 19, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve written loads of fiction, but I haven’t sold any–haven’t even tried. Something about having my fiction rejected is so wholly terrifying compared to nonfiction. The fiction is much more personal, obviously.

    I have participated in NANOWRIMO a few times, and found it helpful, in a kick in the pants kind of way. I finished drafts that turned into better things. It got me started, and it’s good practice.

    What thrills me about fiction is that there are no rules–I don’t have to include certain things or meet certain requirements (so many words, so many sidebars or boxes, this POV, etc.). It’s very freeing, and lets me use ideas and info that I’ve never found a place for in other writing. But the terror thing, as I mentioned above, is a bit of a stumbling block. Right now, it’s just for me.

  23. 23 Janet September 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    I write fiction. I write children’s picture books and middle grade novels. I have not sold any fiction yet. I just had a non fiction short story published in an Christmas Traditions anthology. I have won honorable mention for one of my picture books in a writing contest and won second place in a people’s choice contest at a writer’s convention. I have never participated in NaNoWriMo because I do not believe I could ever write that many words. The only thing that scares me about writing fiction is not ever being able to get it published. I love writing fiction.

  24. 24 Brianne A September 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    What thrills me about writing fiction is the possibility of writing something as inspiring and entertaining as my favorite books. I have read books and watched movies and thought afterward, “If I had written THAT, I think my career life would feel complete.”

    What scares me about writing fiction is that my attempt could turn out to be the most boring thing that anyone has ever read. I’m also afraid that I will have this amazing vision for my story, and I won’t be able to capture it on paper.

  25. 25 Lisa S. September 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I have written fiction (mainly in classes I’ve taken) but I haven’t sold any of it. I haven’t even submitted any of my work. That is what scares me most about writing fiction, submitting it and even before I do that, doing the rewrites. The entire process intimidates me.

    Writing a novel is a goal I want to accomplish, but finding the time, now that’s a challenge. Last year I gave serious consideration to participating in NaNoWriMo. But time issues arose and I didn’t think I’d have a chance of finishing. This year I’ll take a look at my calendar and see if it would work. I like the idea of just getting lots of words down without censoring it in my head first. Then going back and seeing what’s there and what’s reworkable. I need a goal set by someone other than myself.

    What thrills me about fiction are the endless possibilities. Anything can happen.

  26. 26 Janel September 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    I am in the process of writing several short stories and a few non-fiction essays. This is the year that I plan on submitting more stories and finally take my writing seriously. I have a cozy mystery rattling around in the back of my brain, but I feel like I need to think about it a lot more before attempting to start it. Right now I will be very happy if I can publish a short story within the next year. I have had quite a few non-fiction articles published in craft magazines. The fact that the short story market is so huge and there are so many other people also trying to get published in that market intimidates me. I have to psych myself up much more to get the courage to submit a short story.

  27. 27 Laura September 19, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I have been waiting for this book/day to come up. This is a book I am really excited about. While most of what I’ve submitted is non-fiction, mostly personal essays, fiction is my ‘burning passion’.

    Have I written or sold any fiction? Yes & no. I entered two short short stories in a competition last year, neither of which placed. But in writing them I found that I can do this. The stories simply spilled out of me. It was intense. Since then I have started writing other, potential young adult books, but thus far have not completed them. I’m still working away at the latest one. I am looking into nano, but uncertain that I can do it yet.

    What scares me? My fears are that I don’t have the ability to finish an entire fiction book, and that if I do, it won’t be any good. What thrills me? The act of writing, finding out what my characters stories are. It’s like reading what comes out of the end of my pen.

  28. 28 Kathy Bitely September 19, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    It is hard for me to respond to this one because I haven’t written any fiction (except for poetry) therefore I haven’t sold any and I had to google NaNoWriMo since I’d never heard of it before! Talk about green…but not ashamed to admit it! Fiction thrills me and then intrigues me to create in that genre. I would love to explore it more and see what happens. What scares me is losing my way with the plot or meandering down too many bunny trails. But with practice I’m sure I’ll get there. Again, thanks to all for their imput and inspiration.

  29. 29 karen k September 19, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I have never sold or submitted a work of fiction. I think about it and dabble at ieas quite often. Writing fiction is a little scary to me; I’m a non-fiction writer and have a lot of practice in dealing with facts and figures. Holy Smokes, what to do when there aren’t any rules? I’m intrigued and fascinated by fiction and do plan to give it a go. If I could inspire someone else the way I am when I finish a good piece of fiction, it would be quite an honor.

  30. 30 writethejourney September 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    What scares me about writing fiction is the ability to create a) convincing, compelling dialogue and b) an interesting plot. I like describing things but I fear my fiction would get caught in eddies of pretty-talk. Yawn.

    That said, I’m intrigued by NaNoWriMo. I don’t know why–maybe the challenge and caution-to-the-wind approach. Maybe I should put it on the calendar for 2010.

  31. 31 Sarah Lindsey September 19, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    I’ve been putting most of my time and energy into trying to sell non-fiction articles, but in my spare time, I love to write short stories and work on my screenplay. I would love to eventually be in a position where I could focus most of my time and energy on fiction writing.

    While I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, I would love to write a novel and am seriously considering participating this year.

    Fiction writing can be intimidating for me in the sense that much of the world and the characters that I create are based on people, events, and experiences from my own life…and it’s a little nerve-wracking to put myself out there for everyone to see like that. I also know that I still have much to learn in terms of becoming a good storyteller.

    The ability to create an interesting world with compelling characters that have a story to tell is absolutely thrilling….especially if someone will benefit (learn something valuable or just enjoy a good laugh or cry) from reading my work.

  32. 32 Shelley September 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I have written two fiction novels and I have at least six “part-way” novels on my shelf. I made a meager attempt to sell my first novel, and was discouraged after only a few rejections. I participated in NanWriMo and pounded out a second novel. NaNoWriMo was a great experience as far as getting rid of the “internal editor” and just getting my ideas out on paper, but it left me with 50,000 plus words of a manuscript that needed so much re-working that it was overwhelming.
    What scares me the most about writing fiction is finding a way to bring my own voice to my stories. For me the best part of fiction – or any story – is the opportunity that it gives the reader to see things from another point of view. I have a lot to say, and I believe the best way to do that is through story. But I am afraid that my words will come out sounding like a puppeteer pulling the characters strings, instead of a natural blending of my voice with my characters.

  33. 33 Tonja September 22, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I have not been lucky enough to have written a novel not to mention to have sold one! Let’s put it this way, if I actually sat down and wrote as often as I thought about writing, I would feel very accomplished right now. I certainly have considered participating in NaNoWriMo because it appears it would give me just the focus I would need to finish a project. I am much more deadline driven and find having specific timelines are much more productive for me, so yes, I would love to participate. Really the only thing that scares me about writing fiction is making it realistic enough that someone would want to read and enjoy it. I find it very hard to project other personalities and life situations into fiction writing that I am not 100% familiar with so I don’t trust the believability factor just yet. The part that thrills me about writing fiction is knowing that maybe someday someone might read a book I have written and be completely carried away by the story as I have so many times reading other novels.

  1. 1 Day Nineteen: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 21, 2009 at 8:37 am
  2. 2 The 2009 Giveaway List: The Writer Mama Back-To-School Giveaway Starts Tuesday, September 1st! « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 30, 2009 at 10:04 am
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