The secret recipe for a great novel? Does it even exist?

What is the secret recipe for a great novel? And the secret recipe for a bestseller? Above all, do these recipes even exist? Questions like these are of interest to writers and readers alike. In fact, while writers are always on the lookout for new ways to make their stories more and more compelling, and sellable, readers are forever sifting through the oceanic offer of books they have at their disposal to zero in on those with just the right features to turn an otherwise normal reading session into a deeply rewarding experience. As a result, at first blush for…

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Why I cannot live without books

Books make up an important part of my life. This is not just because I write. In fact, well before I ever tried to write anything, I was an avid reader. One of those people capable of staying at home on New Year’s Eve to finish a book they have just started reading. Because it seems promising. And the thrill of knowing how it all ends is as irresistible as Ulysses’ sirens’ song. In particular, I remember a New Year’s Eve of almost thirty years ago. The book I had just started was Red Dragon by Tomas Harris. And–you know…

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Literary devices: repetition in books

Have you ever noticed? The best novels imitate reality. They don’t try to photocopy it. In fact, reality is too thick and complex a tapestry, so made up of billions and billions of different threads, to be captured in its entirety. It’s a tapestry where each thread represents a different story–each going on at the same time all the others are also going on. Besides, as soon as we lean closer to a thread we discover it’s just as complex and vast as the whole tapestry. In a way, reality is a sort of fractal. To navigate reality and understand at…

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How to fight Amazon fake book reviews

Book reviews can be extremely useful. They can help us better choose our next book, to home in on the one that is most likely the best for us. Of course, this holds true provided it is the kind of book we like. You know, no matter how many stars a book has if it is about, say, Second World War and we read only romance. Even so, even when considering reviews of the types of books we like, in this digital era of ours we can run into a problem. In fact, although many reviews are genuine, and some…

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How to create awesome character names

I already wrote another post on character names. But I felt it wasn’t as complete as it could have been. So here is a sort of part two. Some authors don’t even start writing if they don’t know the name of their characters. Others write a full first draft or even more using working names. Then they finally come up with a name that is the natural result of their staying with the story for such a long time. The name reveals itself, we could say. Now, probably names aren’t among the most important aspects of a great novel–but many great…

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20 signs you are a writer

Maybe it’s Neil Gaiman’s statement that particularly resonates with you–“As far as I’m concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.” Or maybe you feel more in line with Dorothy Parker’s take–“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” In any case, shedding light on your desire to become a writer and what you’re actually doing to…

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Use gamification to increase your daily word count

Some years ago, after I repeatedly found myself still playing at five o’clock in the morning, I had to wipe Skirim off my hard drive. And when the deinstallation program asked me if I wanted to keep my saved games I immediately clicked no. To prevent second thoughts from taking shape into my mind and persuade me the saved games were just harmless files. That I could keep them and be safe nonetheless. To this day, the same happens whenever I play chess. The game is so complex and compelling, and I find it so intriguing, I can’t just play…

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How to kill your protagonist… and survive

Writers enjoy a notable perk. When they write they’re like little gods. In their novels they can play with their characters’ lives. And indeed it’s a well known rule of thumbs the one suggesting that you throw at your protagonist all you can, to make their life as miserable as possible. However, it’s also well known that great power carries with it great responsibility. As a result, the simple fact you can do whatever you want doesn’t necessarily entail you should do it. For example, you can stuff your story with Deus ex machina devices. In this way any hole in…

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Why do writers write. Or rather, why do I write?

Money. We all know it can’t buy happiness. But, as Groucho Marx said, “it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” And that’s something. Or not? In any case, on one thing we can all agree. If someone wants to become filthy rich and do that real fast, writing is not the way to go. Indeed, this should be immediately apparent if we stop a second and think about the time and effort even a single book requires. Besides, according to the Nielsen Book research for 2015 only a very small number of books (500) sold on average more…

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