Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Francine Prose

Ever Wondered How An Author Actually Writes A Novel?


Many will think today’s post is only for writers; or, those who wish they were… Nail Your Novel

I think many readers could profit from this post—especially if they’re avid readers—people like that often turn into writers

This post could also be valuable for publishers who really don’t understand what writers do

And, since writers are readers and many readers turn into writers and self-publishing is so popular, many people wear all three hats.

So, I think most anyone should keep reading :-)

Yesterday, I re-blogged a post from Roz Morris.

Today, I’m going to plug one of her booksNail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence.

This is a book I wish I’d read 50 years ago

My development as a writer followed the arc fleshed-out in Francine Prose‘s book, Reading Like A Writer.

I’ve read omnivorously—absorbed what I needed to learn from discovering what a good book was and reading tons of them.

I think, before discovering Roz, I’d only read one how-to-write book (along with a bunch of writings tips…); and, I’ve posted here, often, that most books about writing aren’t worth reading

Nail Your Novel is vastly different.

In fact, I suspect many other authors have co-opted her ideas and sold them as their own.

Perhaps they’ve been fair and credited her—she certainly isn’t shy about given other folks credit

Here’s Roz about her credentials:

“I’ve written about a dozen novels. Spines and covers must remain hidden because they were ghosted under strictest secrecy. Millions of readers have enjoyed my storytelling – and that’s no exaggeration because average sales were 500,000 copies each.”

More exactly, she’s sold more than 4 million copies as a ghostwriter

And, she’s now writing novels with her own name on the cover.

How to explain what reading Nail Your Novel was like

It was Exciting—she woke up my Muse and set her spinning :-)

Maybe I should let Roz tell you about the book:

“Most things we do we have a plan for. In most jobs, if we have a task to do, there’s a project plan, a schedule, a methodology.”

“I’ve been writing novels for years and helping floundering writers find their way. What I notice time and time again is that so many make it very hard for themselves, even experienced authors.”

“For instance, many writers paint themselves into a corner because they are tackling a problem at the wrong time.

“They get blocked because the critical parts of their brain are inhibiting their creativity.

“Or their overactively inventive imagination is stopping them seeing the simple, rational solution. Or they are attempting to spice up a dull story by adding more events, when really they need to find a way to examine the ones they already have.”

“I’ve developed a method to tackle all the milestones of writing a novel, from initial inspiration to final polish. It’s smart and efficient. It draws on techniques from Hollywood scriptwriting, improvisational drama, project management and sports psychology – because experts in those fields have already solved problems that novel-writers come across.”

“My method will not only help you finish a novel, it makes the whole writing business a lot more creative and fun. A thoroughly planned novel takes less time to write. Even better, it is more likely to succeed in today’s market because it will have been properly structured, fixed and polished.”

If I taught writing, I’d probably have the students read Francine Prose’s book in tandem with Roz’s—get them consulting about the balance between writing to a plan and absorbing while they read

But, remember, Nail Your Novel is Exciting.

Roz certainly teaches you about the importance of structure and planning; but, she does it while letting you breathe—she lays out her hard-won wisdom and offers you alternatives, too—she lets you Play.

Actually, I’m certain many writers have read her book multiple times—each reading uncovering new nuggets of gold.

And, if you’d like to read the first 16 pages of the book<—click there.

Also, be sure to click on that cover image up there and buy the book; and, even if you’re certain you’ll never write a novel, buy the book as a gift for that friend of yours who’s holed-up in some god-forsaken shack, mired in depression

Buy the book and read it many times; then, check out Roz’s blog for a continuing refresher course

Plus, you may want to check out all of Roz’s booksNail Your Novel was followed by two other books in the series; plus, there are the novels with her own name on the cover :-)

Special Monday BlogBonus:


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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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So You Think You’re A Writer…


So, maybe you are a writer; or, you fondly hope you might be…

Reading Like A Writer

Reading Like A Writer

How do you confirm whether you really are a writer or whether you might actually be able to become one?

One idea would be to write something and ask your friends…

Perhaps that’s not a good idea—if they really are your friends, they might just tell you the truth…

So, do you think they’d say you’re a good writer; or, would they suggest some other hobby you should pursue?

Another idea would be to ask yourself—your deepest self—if you’re a writer…

The worst that could happen is that your self might say no…

Can you live with that?

What if you think you could learn to be a writer?

How would you go about studying the art?

Please, oh please, don’t say take a course in creative writing.

Perhaps, you’ve already committed yourself to being a writer; perhaps, already published a book or two.

Do you honestly, deeply feel you’re a real writer?

I don’t mean the feeling that you could be a better writer—I mean the feeling that what you’ve already written qualifies as something a real writer does…

One suggestion—whether you want to be a writer or are one—one insider tip about the process of becoming a writer: read this past post—How To Read Like A Writer.

Also, I suggest you read the book that post is about—Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.).

If you can’t do either of those suggestions, try reading this Wikipedia article about Reading Like A Writer.

If you can’t do that, try listening to this talk by Francine Prose, the author of Reading Like A writer

One little hint about learning to write, for those who can’t do any of my suggestions—you must read all the good authors you can get your hands on if you ever hope to learn to write…

But, please, oh please, don’t read their books about how to write…

O.K., I’ve done my good deed for the day—back to writing my next book………
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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Authors As Fans of Other Authors


I’m a fan of C. J. Cherryh, when it comes to famous authors.

When it comes to authors I know, it’s Jane Watson

I’ve learned how to write by reading other authors.

In my previous post, The “Self”-Education of Writers . . ., I said:

“Many are the writers whose education—beyond that which is learned from living fully and authentically—comes from reading other writers—their creative fiction, not books about how to write.”

And, in the post, How To Read Like A Writer, I quoted Francine Prose, saying:

“Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—’…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.’

“’You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.’

“’The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.’”

So, it may be rather obvious that authors become fans of other authors and there is evidence in a post over at Flavorwire called, 10 Illuminating Fan Letters From Famous Authors, To Famous Authors.

Here are just a few snippets:

From Norman Mailer to William Styron, 1953:

“I have only one humble criticism. I wonder if you realize how good you are. That tendency in you to invert your story and manner your prose just slightly, struck me—forgive the presumption—as coming possibly from a certain covert doubt of your strengths as a writer, and you’re too good to doubt yourself.”

From Ray Bradbury to Robert Heinlein, 1976:

“…I REMEMBER, WARMLY, YOUR MANY KINDNESSES TO ME WHEN I WAS 19–20–21 YEARS OLD.”
Yes, apparently, Bradbury wrote that in all Caps :-)

From Charles Dickens to George Eliot, 1858:

“I have been so strongly affected by the two first tales in the book you have had the kindness to send me through Messrs. Blackwood, that I hope you will excuse my writing to you to express my admiration of their extraordinary merit.”

From Virginia Woolf to Olaf Stapledon, 1937:

“…sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction.”

From James Joyce to Henrik Ibsen, 1901:

“I can hardly tell you how moved I was by your message. I am a young, a very young man, and perhaps the telling of such tricks of the nerves will make you smile. But I am sure if you go back along your own life to the time when you were an undergraduate at the University as I am, and if you think what it would have meant to you to have earned a word from one who held so high a place in your esteem as you hold in mine, you will understand my feeling.”

an anti-fan letter from William S. Burroughs to Truman Capote, 1970:

“You have betrayed and sold out the talent that was granted you by this department. That talent is now officially withdrawn. Enjoy your dirty money. You will never have anything else. You will never write another sentence above the level of In Cold Blood. As a writer you are finished. Over and out. Are you tracking me? Know who I am? You know me, Truman. You have known me for a long time. This is my last visit.”

If you go to Flavorwire to read the complete letters, be sure to note the [via] link after each letter, to be led to more information
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The “Self”-Education of Writers . . .


I must begin this post by making it clear that many fine writers have completed what’s considered a full education—appropriate degrees and banners flying high.

Yet, many other fine writers have tasted the fare of society’s brand of learning and decided, sometimes seemingly “against their will”, to set their own sails on their own ship of pedagogy.

I, for instance, tried college three times—thrice found it wanting—am still a devoted learner

Many are the writers whose education—beyond that which is learned from living fully and authentically—comes from reading other writers—their creative fiction, not books about how to write.

From the previous post, How To Read Like A Writer—here’s a quote of me quoting Maria Popova who’s quoting Francine Prose from her book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them:

Concerning writers reading to learn how to write—”…the connection has to do with whatever mysterious promptings make you want to write. It’s like watching someone dance and then secretly, in your own room, trying out a few steps.”

“You will do yourself a disservice if you confine your reading to the rising star whose six-figure, two-book contract might seem to indicate where your own work should be heading.”

“The only time my passion for reading steered me in the wrong direction was when I let it persuade me to go to graduate school….I left graduate school and became a writer.”

And, concerning authors who stopped their schooling, FlavorWire has an article called, 10 Famous Authors Who Dropped Out of School.

Harper Lee who dropped out during her junior year of university.

Augusten Burroughs, dropped out at age 13.

Charles Dickens, forced out of school at 12 to work long hours for little pay, returned to school, yet many feel his early working days color his writing.

Jack Kerouac dropped out during his freshman year from football injuries.

William Faulkner dropped out at 15 and again at 22.

Mark Twain was forced out of school at 12 due to his father’s death and the need to work for the family.

George Bernard Shaw, dropped out at 14 and once wrote, “Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents.”

H.G. Wells, out at 11 due do his father’s injury.

Jack London, out at 13.

Can you share others in the Comments?

Did you also drop out of school?
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Why Writers Must Read In Order To Become Authors


A writer is someone who puts words down.

An author is not necessarily a writer who’s gotten published

I know, lots of folks think authors are published writers but words do have meanings and “author” comes from ‘a person who invents or causes something’ which comes from Old French autor, from Latin auctor, from augere ‘increase, originate, promote’.

So, there’s this person sitting there, all alone, putting words on paper or screen—a writer—and a strange thing begins to happen—the words begin to organize themselves into a meaningful story—the writer becomes an author—a process which usually happens many times during the intense effort to ‘increase, originate, promote’—often morphing from writer to author to writer to author

Also, this process of a writer being able to become an author is not “taught” in creative writing courses—just ask a few honest creative writing instructors

So how does a writer learn to transform themselves into an author?

Reading other authors, to trigger the writer>author process in themselves, then sitting and writing until they become an author enough times to complete a story.

Please read our previous post How To Read Like A Writer to learn about writer, author, creative writing instructor Francine Prose’s book—one great Read!

Some of you may be wanting to shout at me that there are authors out there who have courses that a bunch of other people are shouting about, saying “This is the way to learn to become an author!”

Please read Francine’s book. She gets very personal, telling you how every technique she’s taught has been overturned by examples from successful authors

There are many books I’ve read—some consciously forgotten—that have helped me become an author.

The ones that have helped me the most are by C. J. Cherryh and I’ve yet to read all of her 60+, award-winning books—more like a few books re-read 4 or 5 times over the years

So, even though an author interview won’t help you learn how to be an author, it could introduce you to an author whose works, carefully read, can help you teach yourself to consistently transform writing-time into author-ness.

So let me get out of the way and direct you to the previous post A Rave for My Favorite Author ~ C. J. Cherryh so you can listen her being interviewed on video :-)
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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