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Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro Tip From Laura Anne Gilman

Sunday, July 5th, 2015 | Posted by Tina Jens

Laura Anne Gilman-smallOccasionally, I’ll be hosting the wit and wisdom of professionals across the Spec Fic field. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions posed by new authors, and provided that list to some of the pros. They’re invited to pick one and respond to it.

This week, Laura Anne Gilman — a Nebula nominated author, prolific novelist, former NYC editor, and author of the non-fiction book Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers — shares her advice on:

What do you do to get unstuck and solve writer’s block?

Someone asked me a similar question recently — I’d been talking about how I get up every morning, and from 7am to around noon, I focus on the work in progress, usually with a word goal in mind, and they asked “but what if the words don’t come? What do you do then?”

And my answer was that the words always come. The trick is, they’re not always the right words, or the best words. And there may not be as many words as I’d like. That’s okay. So long as I’ve shoved the scene forward, however ugly the shove, I can go back and fix it later. And — probably not surprisingly — once I’ve gotten past that first ugly push, with permission to suck… the right words usually show up. Being there is 70% of the gig. The other 30% is staying there.

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula award-nominated author of more than 20 published novels, including the forthcoming Silver on the Road, Book 1 of The Devil’s West (October 2015). Ms. Gilman also writes mysteries under the name L.A. Kornetsky.

You can find out more at http://www.lauraannegilman.net,follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman) or Tumblr (suricattus)

She has a helpful list of direct links to find and buy her books here.

Silver on the Road-smallHere is the list of questions I’m providing to the authors.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started writing/publishing?
What’s one thing I can do to improve my writing?
Where do you get your ideas?
To outline or not to outline — what works for you?
What reference book/s should I own?
Research: Why and When?
What do you do to get unstuck and solve writer’s block?
How do you make yourself sit your butt in the chair and write?
Do you have any writing rituals?
Do you have any advice on self-editing?
What should I be reading?
Critique groups and first readers: good idea or bad idea?
I have trouble finding the right starting point for my story. Got any suggestions?
I can’t seem to get the ending right. What should I keep in mind?
Plot vs. Character — what’s your opinion?
How do I know when it’s ready to send out?
Do you write for more than one medium or in more than one genre? Why?

If you have a question you’d like me to add to the list, post that in the comments.

If you’re a pro author who would like to tackle one of these questions, let me know!


Tina L. Jens has been teaching varying combinations of Exploring Fantasy Genre Writing, Fantasy Writing Workshop, and Advanced Fantasy Writing Workshop at Columbia College-Chicago since 2007. The first of her 75 or so published fantasy and horror short stories was released in 1994. She has had dozens of newspaper articles published, a few poems, a comic, and had a short comedic play produced in Alabama and another chosen for a table reading by Dandelion Theatre in Chicago. Her novel, The Blues Ain’t Nothin’: Tales of the Lonesome Blues Pub, won Best Novel from the National Federation of Press Women, and was a final nominee for Best First Novel for the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild awards.

She was the senior producer of a weekly fiction reading series, Twilight Tales, for 15 years, and was the editor/publisher of the Twilight Tales small press, overseeing 26 anthologies and collections. She co-chaired a World Fantasy Convention, a World Horror Convention, and served for two years as the Chairman of the Board for the Horror Writers Assoc. Along with teaching, writing, and blogging, she also supervises a revolving crew of interns who help her run the monthly, multi-genre, reading series Gumbo Fiction Salon in Chicago. You can find more of her musings on writing, social justice, politics, and feminism on Facebook @ Tina Jens. Be sure to drop her a PM and tell her you saw her Black Gate blog.

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