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On Writing Well, my take on William Zinsser’s classic

By Mayra Cuevas

The next three posts will highlight books that have helped me during the process of composing my first novel.

I will begin with “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser, and oldie but goodie that is as relevant today as it was in 1976 when it was first published.

Although Zinsser’s book is a guide to writing nonfiction, his principles can help the fiction writer achieve a more succinct and clean prose that is both practical and colorful.

Zinsser is a master at uncluttering prose. And he teaches how to distill the writer’s message to its purest form.
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Compassion for your Writer Self

By Mayra Cuevas


Rejoicing in others 

I deeply rejoice if you are a writer whose full time job is to work on your next book. I am not one of those people. At least not for now.

My main frustration with writing doesn’t come from lack of ideas, but from lack of time.  Like most of the aspiring novelist, I struggle with carving out time to write between my full time job, family, friends, volunteer work, spiritual studies and those pesky everyday responsibilities like doing laundry, paying bills and shopping for groceries.  Even when I try my very best to steal an hour here and there, the antagonistic forces are sometimes all too strong.  Writer’s block would be a luxury, but neither my critique partner and mother of four, Prof. M, or I have the time for such indulgences. Any time we get is spent furiously clicking our keyboards.

It is here that compassion for your writer self needs to kick in.
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Working with a critique partner

By Mayra Cuevas

Find Yourself a Critique Partner

Find yourself a critique partner was some of the first advice I received from published authors.  The first time I heard this I stared at the speaker blankly. What the hell is a critique partner? And where do you find one?

As always, I turned to my trusty friend Google.

A search for “critique partner definition” answered the first question. The role of the critique partner was to read my story, provide encouragement and point out what I needed to work on (more details on this below).

A search for “finding a critique partner” led me to a website that promised I would find the critique partner of my dreams. It was clear before I dived in I needed a strategy. Read more

Outlining Queen, or how I discovered that I’m NOT a pantser

By Mayra Cuevas

I’ll admit it, when I began writing the first draft of my novel I was clueless. I’m still clueless to a certain extent, but less so after having survived the first draft.

For two years before I started writing the first draft I carried around a pile of note cards with various thoughts on characters, plot and locations. Then in February of this year, I took an online course entitled Writing Young Adult Fiction. The course helped me organize those ideas into something that someone, somewhere would want to read someday.

By the end of the course I was feeling so optimistic about the process that I took three days off of work to write. Read more