Friday Finds: Writing Advice from John Grisham

Every Friday morning, Friday Finds brings you a round-up of helpful writing, editing, and publishing tips right here... or in your inbox, if you subscribe to my newsletter.

Happy Friday, and more importantly, Happy Summer! 

I look forward to this season and all of its Vitamin D in a way few Floridians do, so I'll share my felicitations with whomever I can.

But if spending time in the hot sun with a cold drink isn't your jam, this week's #FridayFinds are a great excuse to stay inside, while you get to know your characters and improve your writing process.

"John Grisham's Do's and Don'ts for Writing Popular Fiction," New York Times.

Love him, hate him, feel indifferent towards him, John Grisham has sold over 275 million copies of his books over his twenty-eight-year career, so he must be doing something right.

This article first appeared in the June 4, 2017, New York Times Book Review to promote Grisham's newest novel, Camino Island.

My favorite bit of advice: "DO — WRITE YOUR ONE PAGE EACH DAY AT THE SAME PLACE AND TIME. Early morning, lunch break, on the train, late at night — it doesn’t matter. Find the extra hour, go to the same place, shut the door. No exceptions, no excuses." 

Cheers to that, sir. Get the rest of the list here:

Character Building with a Thought Catalog Listicle.

I first stumbled upon "50 Questions to Ask a Girl if You Really Want to Know Who She Is," while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. My first reaction was, "Okay, I'll bite," thinking this would be the sort of sorority-lite fodder Thought Catalog normally serves up. 

The more I read, the more pleasantly surprised I was by the calibre of the questions. "You know," I thought, "these could be great questions for writers to ask their characters!"

For the most part, the questions aren't gendered at all, and comprise such fun and deep questions as: "How seriously do you take horoscopes?" and "What is one thing you feel your life is missing?" 

If your character identifies as male, the only questions that might throw you for a loop are 24 and 25 ("What's one thing you're scared to ask a man, but really want to?" and "If you were a man for a day, what would be the first thing you do?"), but that's as easy as inverting the gender in question. 

Start your character-building questionnaire here:

My weekend "fun reading."   So many books, so little time!  (Credit: Jessica Hatch, 2017).

My weekend "fun reading." So many books, so little time! (Credit: Jessica Hatch, 2017).

The Ulysses App.

If you've taken my writing course, then you know about writing software like Scrivener and FocusApp. While I tout those to writers who find Microsoft passé, I must confess to still using trusty, old Word for my writing. 

...Ulysses might change that. 

A writing friend I admire and respect turned me onto the iOS app this week. She's a graphic designer as well as a fiction writer, so the syncing features and the user experience really appeal to her. 

You can find a full list of the features here, but this is what my writing friend had to say about it:

"I like the interface of it a lot. It's nice and clean, but I can easily get to any document (planning, chapter, character sketch, etc.) quickly from a sidebar, and it also has the option to do things like leave yourself revision notes or track word goals in-app in a different sidebar. 
"OR I can turn off any/all of those and just focus on the text in front of me, which is cool."

Like most awesome things, Ulysses isn't free. The desktop app costs $45.00, but you can try the demo free for ten work hours, which I'm about to do. (Besides, as we'll learn in an upcoming Money Monday post, if you make income as a writer, your word processing software may be eligible for a tax deduction.)

Learn more here:

That's it for me. I hope you find these resources helpful, and that you have a fantastic weekend.

I know I will. Besides diving into that gorgeous pile of books, I'll be attending my first-ever Editorial Freelancers Association meeting tomorrow. I look forward to learning even more writing tips and publishing tricks to share with you. 

Happy writing,
Jessica Hatch