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The Art of Semi-Fiction

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Exploring Every Corner of the Written Word


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Exploring Every Corner of the Written Word




Episode 34: Tropes, Clichés, Stereotypes, and Archetypes (Part 2)

In which Robynne and Jane continue their three-part series on tropes, clichés, stereotypes, and archetypes. In this second part, you’ll learn seven ways to avoid these ominous obstacles to accomplished authorship. You’ll learn why you should read a lot in your genre and why you need to write original plots and characters . . . and much more. While expounding their seven points, Robynne and Jane discuss shirtless sweaty hunks and flawless beauties, Shrek the Musical (and the movie), and Jane’s pellet stove in Montana. If that’s piqued your interest, listen in to learn how to write with originality and creativity! The post Episode 34: Tropes, Clichés, Stereotypes, and Archetypes (Part 2) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 33: Tropes, Clichés, Stereotypes, and Archetypes (Part 1)

In which Robynne and Jane dive into a three-part series on tropes, clichés, stereotypes, and archetypes. In this first part, you’ll get everything from detailed definitions to the pitfalls associated with these four nemeses of good writing. Intrigued? We thought you would be. And though every single writer alive has fallen prey to using one, or more, of these dastardly fiends, don’t despair! There are ways to recognize, avoid, and eliminate them from polluting or diluting your powerful writing. Although we love our nonfiction friends (we are both nonfiction writers, as well!), this series is really for people who are writing fiction or creative nonfiction … narrative stories of some kind, whether true or not. Well, for them and anyone who wants to hear Jane struggle as Robynne throws some hilarious quizzes her way! The post Episode 33: Tropes, Clichés, Stereotypes, and Archetypes (Part 1) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 32: Can I Write Both Fiction and Nonfiction?

In which Jane asks the burning question: can I write both fiction and nonfiction? On the way to answering that question, Jane talks about how it’s often expected that writers pick one lane and stick with it, primarily because it makes the marketing efforts a whole lot easier. But there are plenty of authors who successfully straddle both genres. Jocelyn Green, for example, has written eight historical fiction novels. But she has also published eight nonfiction books, as well. But how does she do that? It probably starts with an agent who is okay with you pursuing both genres. Robynne notes that the underlying reason some agents prefer you to stick with one genre and even sub-genre, is simply because publishers will find you easier to market if you contain yourself to one corner of the writing world. So, is it possible, then, to write both? Absolutely. Listen in to find out how! The post Episode 32: Can I Write Both Fiction and Nonfiction? appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 31: Should I Be Writing Memoir?

In which Robynne and Jane discuss the ever-interesting and wildly popular topic of Memoir. Robynne points out the vast changes the last ten years have seen in the definition and popularity of memoir, as well as the specs and inherent marketability. What is a memoir today? A compelling personal narrative that is written about an event or time period in which something important happened. A NY Times best-selling author, and friend of Robynne and Jane, gets a mention as her many memoirs are perfect examples of the side of memoir dedicated to folks who are either famous or who have done something extraordinary. But the genre of memoir is shifting … there is now room in the market for the compelling stories by regular people. The key? Their stories need to have some sort of universal appeal. So, join Jane and Robynne as they discuss this topic to find out if your personal story might have a place on the Memoir shelf. The post Episode 31: Should I Be Writing Memoir? appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 30: Self-Editing (Part 2)

In which Robynne and Jane continue the conversation on Self-Editing. Jane’s already decided she now likes the thought of self-editing. But by the end of the episode, she absolutely loves it. Why? Because it’s easy AND effective. This go-round, on the chopping block are adverbs. They are usually markers for weak verbs. (Hint: “ly” words are often HUGE red flags for sluggish verbs. Example: she ate greedily vs. she gobbled.) Also getting the chop are stage directions … omitting unnecessary, obvious information makes your writing clearer, tighter, and more effective. Although Robynne and Jane both support paying attention to those blue and red lines in your document, Robynne also cautions against trusting spellcheck without question. The red and blue lines are tools to help you identify problem areas in your work. Spellcheck is a tool to help, too. But those tools are only effective if your eyes are on your words and taking context into consideration. Robynne admits her love for the “find and replace” functions, and explains how they can help make sweeping changes in your manuscript in a super quick and easy way. And, there’s more. But you’ll have to listen in to find out what. The post Episode 30: Self-Editing (Part 2) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 29: Self-Editing (Part 1)

In which Robynne and Jane delve into the incredibly important, yet often misunderstood topic of Self-Editing. It’s such a large and important topic, however, that this is only Part 1 of a two-part series. And even then, the subject is not exhausted. Here’s something Robynne learns about Jane in the first minutes of the episode: Jane does not like self-editing. Or she didn’t. But Robynne quickly edges her to the dark side of Self-Editing Enthusiasts. And it wasn’t very hard. Self-editing is the chance to take your basic manuscript from drab to fab. And it’s how you make sure you are presenting your very best work to an editor, agent, or publisher. In this episode, you’ll get some very specific tips on how to make this whole self-editing thing easy. And you start with a list. (Jane likes that part a lot.) Making this list helps organize the process. And going through the list methodically is Robynne’s key to success. “But wait!” Jane interjects. “Does this mean you have to go through your manuscript several times?” “Nay, dear Jane,” Robynne replies. And then she tells you how via the first seven points. The post Episode 29: Self-Editing (Part 1) appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 28: Jealousy and Envy

In which Jane and Robynne pull up their big girl britches and dive into the prickly subject of being envious of our fellow writers. Robynne reluctantly admits that, yes, in a way, she’s experienced moments of jealousy. In her defense, however, it wasn’t over an author’s ability or opportunity. What was she jealous about? Listen in! Jane then admits to her personal struggles with the green-eyed monster. She relayed a moment when she was at an Inspire workshop with multi-published author, Sarah Sundin, who spoke about “God’s Waiting Room.” (Note: if you’re an Inspire member, this talk is available on video at This image was a wonderful illustration about the joys and struggles and benefits of being in a holding pattern when those around you seem to be marching forward toward their writing goals. Ginny Yttrup, another multi-published author, also gets a mention, with a wonderfully candid quote about envy and an even more wonderful response. Do you struggle with this kind of issue? Are you needing a little encouragement, as well as a tiny bit of accountability? Well, pull up a chair and a cup of tea and let’s talk this through … The post Episode 28: Jealousy and Envy appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 27: How to Create Compelling Characters

In which Robynne and Jane talk about creating complex, compelling characters. And before you nonfiction writers tune out. This isn’t just for fiction writers … or for memoirists and narrative nonfiction writers. Everyone needs to know how to make characters sing. Robynne starts with discussing the importance of understanding the whole character you’re writing about, not just the 45-year-old man he is in your story. Knowing your character’s background, and what formed them, helps your reader to understand words and actions in the present. But for your reader to understand that, you must first flesh out your character in your own mind. Jane and Robynne throw in a Writing 101 tip before launching into the list of “creating compelling characters” tips: No character (person) is either all good or all bad. If your protagonist is a saint, he will be hard to identify with. If your antagonist is evil incarnate, he’s two-dimensional and weak. And then, of course, we launch into specifics for creating a character with depth and resonance and deep, compelling interest. Knowing the stakes of the main character is important. And then knowing what your main character is after will help you craft the nuances of your character’s personality. Listen in for the rest of our tips for making sure your characters are so riveting your reader can’t put the book down. The post Episode 27: How to Create Compelling Characters appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 26: Why Do You Write?

In which Jane and Robynne explore the many reasons for writing at all. Jane opens with a question to Robynne: Why do YOU write. As usual, Robynne’s answer is a little unorthodox … it’s a combination of many, many things, including a bit of a compulsion, a way to learn about herself and others, a way to process events and emotions, a way to share information and encouragement. Jane followed that up with an interesting question: would you, as a writer, still write if there were no hope of publication or public eyes on your words? The motivation for writing comes in different forms and writing has so many outlets. Jane does a great job of exploring all of these and encouraging us to remember why we started writing in the first place. There are many reasons to write … for publication, for personal growth, for ministry, for processing emotions and events. Jane and Robynne help define and value each of these many kinds. The post Episode 26: Why Do You Write? appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 25: Increasing Stakes

In which Robynne and Jane dive into the many ways to increase the stakes of your fiction or narrative nonfiction. Creating some sort of tension is imperative to grab your reader’s attention (and keep it!) and these tips will help you do just that. Jane starts with a great definition of stakes: what creates conflict in your novel: spiritual, financial, physical death or loss. Robynne adds that death is a profound stake, but, really, all stakes need to be is some important conflict. Internal stakes are as important and real as physical stakes. Whatever it is, it must be large and important. Francine Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater is used as a wonderful example where there are multiple physical and emotional stakes, and they come through multiple characters. Cynthia Ruchti’s Miles from Where We Started is another great example of multiple stakes: emotional, financial, and spiritual. Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is also packed with physical, social, and emotional stakes. Robynne’s point is that all books holding our attention are just full of stakes. After establishing what stakes are and giving solid examples of authors who’ve done it well, Robynne plunges into 8 points for HOW to increase the stakes in your own stories. When to enter the story is first on the list, followed by making sure the stakes are personal to the main characters. If the stakes are happening to someone else, with little or no impact to the main characters, then why are we following their story? Number 3 is to find a way to connect your main POV character’s stakes to other characters. Intertwine them, making your POV character’s response to THEIR stakes have an impact on someone else. Number 4 is to have a deadline. If your characters have to do or learn or accomplish something by a certain point in time, the tension, and, therefore, stakes, are immediately heightened. There are four more tips, too. But you’ll have to tune in to find out what they are! The post Episode 25: Increasing Stakes appeared first on The Art of Semi-Fiction.


Episode 24: More Tips for Tighter, More Powerful, Writing

In which Robynne and Jane continuing their conversation on how to really tighten your writing until it’s strong, powerful, and compelling. When last we left the Dynamic Duo, they had already given a great set of tips. But, you know what? There is so much more! Did you know that the phrase “try and” is incorrect? (Should be “try to.”) And did you know that we all tend to overuse some words? For Robynne, the words “lovely” and “rubbish” way too much. Jane admits a slight addiction to “just.”...


Episode 23: Tips for Tighter, More Powerful Writing

In which Robynne and Jane talk about how to make your writing as tight, clean, focused and powerful as possible. Jane admits that she writes pretty minimalistic out of the gate, but even then, can benefit from an intentional attempt to write with efficiency and power. Robynne, on the other hand, loves words and often needs to rein a few of them in to make sure they’re serving the story or the point. Which leads us to the first (almost self-explanatory) tip: Know what you’re writing about. If...


Episode 22: Do I Need an Agent?

In which Jane and Robynne answer the burning question most writers ask at some point: do I need an agent? It’s actually not as simple as you think to make this decision, and it’s even less simple to choose the RIGHT agent. Both Jane and Robynne tell the stories of how they found and were signed by their agents. (Spoiler alert: the key to it all is relationship!) And then they dive into the pros and cons of having an agent, how to find the right one for you, and what the heck an agent even...


Episode 21: Four Common Mistakes Writers Make

In which Robynne and Jane talk, funnily enough, about some of the common mistakes writers make, especially new(ish) ones. Although most of what they talk about applies to all writers, they go a little deeper with Christian writers with the first mistake: believing that a call to writing means that you’re going to be rich and famous. Yeah, that’s not a given, and Robynne deftly explains why … and why focusing on those possible outcomes might mean you’ll miss the biggest benefits of the...


Episode 20: What is S.E.T.T.? And Why is it Important?

In which Jane ushers us into the inner sanctum of craft. First, she tests Robynne about the five senses needed in our rich fiction and creative/narrative nonfiction. Thankfully, Robynne remembered all five (note the non-hesitation when she rattled them off): touch, sight, smell, hearing, taste. Once those senses were firmly in our little brains, she pulled out the big craft guns: S.E.T.T. What’s S.E.T.T., you ask? Jane unwraps it beautifully: Senses (including all five of them is crucial...


Episode 19: Four Ways to Make Sure You DON’T Get Published

In which Robynne and Jane become super jocular (they clearly crack themselves up) as they turn one of the most asked questions in writing (How can I get published??) on its head. Here, the dynamic duo opts to unpack the four top ways NOT to get published. Robynne also drops a truth bomb about intelligence, but that’s just a bonus for you. As are Jane’s exemplary acting skills. But I digress. In this episode, all important points are covered … submission guidelines, how much to send in a...


Episode 18: The Benefits of Journaling

In which Jane dives into one of her very favorite topics: The benefits of keeping a journal. Why keep a journal? There are so many reasons … to evaluate and examine big events … to process huge emotional episodes … to generate ideas … prayer requests … devotionals … brainstorming. You get the idea. They can be all these things and more. Anne Lamott uses 3 x 5 cards, Robynne loves a combination of writing and voice recording, and Jane loves bejeweled journals. What does this have to do with...


Episode 17: Writing Conferences 101

In which Robynne waxes poetic on one of her favorite topics: Writing Conferences. She firmly believes that writing is a team event, NOT a solo sport. So, she’s particularly passionate about this topic. Northern California has a particularly rich literary environment with numerous solid conferences, workshops, etc., but there are over thirty Christian writing conferences scattered throughout North America. WCCW, ACFW, and OCW get a big plug for quality conferences on the West Coast, but...


Episode 16: Brainstorming—Dreams, Visions, and Headlines

In which Jane tackles the tricky subject of figuring out unique ways to get your creative juices flowing when you’ve finished a project and need a new direction, hit a literary wall, or are suffering from a bad case of writer’s block. So, if inspiration is eluding you, here are some interesting possible sources for your next greatest writing idea. Or starting point for a free writing session. Or some notes you need to give to your therapist. But I digress. On dreaming, we learn something...


Episode 15: The Value of Critique Groups—The One Big Thing (Part 2)

In which Robynne and Jane further their discussion about different kinds of writing groups. This time, however, they hone specifically in on critique groups. Robynne makes the VERY bold declaration that if she had to choose between BEING critiqued and critiquing others, she’d always choose critiquing others. Why? Listen in and you’ll find out! What’s more, you’ll learn what The One Big Thing is, and why it is a crucial component in a strong, effective, life-changing critique. If you don’t...