Helping Writers Become Authors

Helping Writers Become Authors

www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com
Write your best story. Change your life. Astound the world.
Ep. 453: My Top Books of 2018
Dec 16, 2018 • 16 min
Check out my list of the top books of 2018 in three categories: Fiction, Writing How-To, and General Non-Fiction.
Ep. 452: The 10-Step Checklist to Writing an Above-Average Novel
Dec 9, 2018 • 19 min
On your way to writing an above-average novel, learn how to apply these ten straightforward solutions to common fiction problems.
Ep. 451: The 10 Rules of Writing Large Casts of Characters
Dec 2, 2018 • 18 min
Stories with large casts of characters offer many challenges. Use these ten important rules of thumb to you help you manage your own teeming call sheets.
Ep. 450: How to Choose Your Story’s Plot Points
Nov 18, 2018 • 19 min
Learn how your story’s plot points can be rearranged and strengthened to create a more powerful overall effect for your readers.
Ep. 449: 5 Ways to Successfully Start a Book With a Dream
Nov 11, 2018 • 21 min
Is it possible to start a book with a dream? The answer is yes, but only if you understand the five important principles of successful dream sequences.
Ep. 448: When Writing, How Do You Know When Enough Is Enough?
Nov 4, 2018 • 19 min
Find out how to know when enough is enough in your story by refining your storytelling instincts to to feel whether something is too sparse or too excessive.
Ep. 447: 5 Lessons From a Lost Novel
Oct 29, 2018 • 21 min
Learn from five mistakes that contributed to a failed novel, as well as important tips about how you can avoid them in your own story.
Ep. 446: Words Are Radical! (or, How to Cherish Language)
Oct 15, 2018 • 14 min
Words create more than just stories. They create life itself. As custodians of words, writers bear a responsibility to cherish language—and to share it.
Ep. 445: Story Structure Q and A: 6 Outstanding Questions About Structure
Oct 1, 2018 • 14 min
Have questions about story structure? The best way to find good answers is to ask good questions. Here are six excellent questions about story structure.
Ep. 444: 3 Tips for Improving Show, Don’t Tell
Sep 24, 2018 • 16 min
The better you get at refining show, don’t tell, the better your writing. Use these tips to gut-check your progress in clearing clutter from your story.
Ep. 443: Do You Have Sloppy Writing Habits? (And 4 Things to Do About It)
Sep 3, 2018 • 15 min
Here is how to figure out which sloppy writing habits unleash your creativity and which inhibit you by unnecessarily complicating the process.
Ep. 442: 5 Ways to Use the Enneagram to Write Better Characters
Aug 27, 2018 • 19 min
The deceptive simplicity of this personality-typing system offers five easy ways you can use the Enneagram to write better characters.
Ep. 441: Writer’s Envy—And 3 Thoughts on What to Do About It
Aug 20, 2018 • 12 min
A writer’s envy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Learn how to harness this powerful emotional indicator to keep your writing on track.
Ep. 440: How to Market Your Book When You Hate Marketing
Aug 13, 2018 • 14 min
Instead of overcoming the disconnect authors often have with marketing, try creating a vision for how to sell your books from a place of authenticity.
Ep. 439: 4 Ways to Choose a Better Theme for Your Book
Aug 6, 2018 • 20 min
Check out these four important questions you can ask about your characters to help you choose a better theme for your book.
Ep. 438: 4 Steps for How to Turn an Idea Into a Story That Rocks
Jul 23, 2018 • 17 min
Find out how to set up personal systems within your creative discipline to help you turn an idea into a story that rocks.
Ep. 437: How to Write Unique Themes
Jul 16, 2018 • 16 min
How can you learn to how write unique themes that say something fresh and new—and yet are resonant to every person on the planet? Here are three tips.
Ep. 436: Never Let Anybody Tell You How to Write: 8 Tips for Learning Responsibly
Jul 9, 2018 • 17 min
Learning how to write is not the same as being told how to write. Check out these eight principles of learning responsibly.
Ep. 435: Judge Yourself Less, Trust Yourself More, and Write Better Stories
Jul 2, 2018 • 17 min
There is a dark side to creativity—one we do not always like to talk about. And that dark side can be encapsulated in two words: perfectionism and judgment.
Ep. 434: Writing as the Art of Thinking Clearly: 6 Steps
Jun 25, 2018 • 17 min
Discover 6 steps writers can take to specifically optimize their ability of thinking clearly on their way to sharing vivid and coherent dreams with readers.
Ep. 433: How to Intertwine Plot, Character, and Theme in Every Scene
Jun 18, 2018 • 17 min
As the foundations of story itself, plot, character, and theme must be present in every scene. Discover how to ensure these elements always do their job.
Ep. 432: 5 Steps to Writing Great Character Chemistry
Jun 11, 2018 • 14 min
Character chemistry is the secret It Factor of fiction. Here are five tips to get you started injecting it into your own story!
Ep. 431: 4 Ways to Write a Better Antagonist
Jun 4, 2018 • 21 min
Figuring out how to write a better antagonist is foundational to balance of plot, theme, and conflict in your story. Find out what Infinity War from Marvel can teach you about this.
Ep. 430: How the Truth Your Character Believes Defines Your Theme
May 28, 2018 • 21 min
The relationship of your protagonist to the thematic Truth—and the specific Lie that keeps interfering—-will define the entire nature of your story. Here are the four most important principles about the Truth Your Character Believes.
Ep. 429: How to Grow as a Writer: 5 Logical Steps
May 21, 2018 • 15 min
Concentrating on how to grow as a writer is not just about improving your writing; it is part and parcel of a personal manifestation of learning and growth. Here are five steps to get you started!
Ep. 428: 5 Lies Writers Believe That Are Holding Them Back
May 14, 2018 • 13 min
Here are five lies writers believe that hold them back from their full potential. Find out what you can learn from character arcs to overcome your own lies and instead reach toward empowering truths.
Ep. 427: Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 64: POV Problems
May 7, 2018 • 18 min
When it comes to Point of View, the vastness and the complexity of the topic makes it all too easy for authors to accidentally stumble into POV problems. But fear not! Today, we are going to clean everything up.
What Should Your Characters Talk About?
Apr 30, 2018 • 14 min
Take a look at what meaningful dialogue looks like and how you can answer: What should your characters talk about?
Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 3: Introducing the Story
Apr 23, 2018 • 19 min
What does it mean to introduce your story in the first chapter? A successful introduction of your story is an introduction of the deeper subtext—the thematic principle, the character arc, and aspects of the plot.
Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 2: Writing the Opening Chapter
Apr 16, 2018 • 18 min
The opening scene is special in many ways. It takes the normal duties of a normal scene and amplifies them into a microcosm of the entire story to come. Here are five things your opening scene needs to ace.
Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 1: Hooking Readers
Apr 9, 2018 • 12 min
Here is a first chapter checklist to help you provide the setup for a solid story and pique the curiosity of your readers with amazing hooks.
How to Decide Between Plain Prose and Beautiful Prose
Apr 2, 2018 • 16 min
Writers must know how to craft words that are beautiful because they are true and words that true because they are beautiful. Consider eight principles of writing both plain prose and beautiful prose.
Learn 5 Ways to Take Risks With Your Writing
Mar 19, 2018 • 16 min
Here’s how to take risks with your writing that will spur you to greater growth as an individuals—and, by extension, give you the opportunity to share that growth with the world.
How to Spot and Avoid Self-Indulgent Writing
Mar 12, 2018 • 18 min
If you can spot, objectively analyze, and eliminate these seven kinds of self-indulgent writing from your story, you will have taken a huge step toward streamlining your book into powerfully-focused art.
Don’t Write Scenes—Write Images
Feb 25, 2018 • 17 min
Here are six ways you can learn to pay attention to your visual imagination, mine it for its full wealth, and then craft a story that unforgettably shares the riches with your readers.
Cohesion and Resonance! Cohesion and Resonance! Cohesion and Resonance!
Feb 11, 2018 • 16 min
If you can create a story with cohesion and resonance, you will have written something truly magical. Let’s examine what each is, why they matter individually, and how they work together.
4 Tips for Writing to the Right Audience
Feb 4, 2018 • 16 min
Writing to the right audience may not mean what you think it does. You don’t have to know who you readers will be in order to write a book optimized for them.
4 Ways for Writers to Become Better Readers
Jan 28, 2018 • 12 min
Here are four reading resolutions you can make this year that will help you become better readers—and improve your writing skills along the way.
The Words That Changed Your Life: Discovering What Made You a Writer
Jan 21, 2018 • 13 min
Exploring the formative influences that made you a writer is a vastly worthwhile venture. Here’s how to move forward into a better understanding of why you’re drawn to the kind of stories you write.
4 (Possible) Reasons Why We Write
Jan 14, 2018 • 15 min
Today, let’s tell ourselves the story of why we write. Realizing the answers can help open up a new understanding of how to write bigger, better, clearer, and keener.
The 5 Secrets of Good Storytelling (That Writers Forget All the Time)
Jan 7, 2018 • 18 min
Discover the five most important secrets of good storytelling—which also happen to be the five most common problems in modern books and movies.
4 Life-Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers
Dec 31, 2017 • 16 min
Instead of goals, this year try focusing on New Year’s lessons and how you can move forward in building upon their foundation.
My Top Books of 2017
Dec 10, 2017 • 11 min
Check out my list of the top books of 2017—both Fiction and Non-Fiction, with a few bonus writing-craft titles thrown in.
How to Write Funny
Nov 26, 2017 • 19 min
Don’t be afraid of learning how to write funny. It is a teachable technique arising from the strong foundation of well-realized characters and story beats.
Tips for How to Choose the Right Sentences
Nov 19, 2017 • 19 min
Learn from these real-time examples how to choose the right sentences for your story, in a way that will make you a better writer with every book you write.
5 (Not-So-Little) Additions to the Great Novel-Writing Checklist
Nov 12, 2017 • 17 min
There are 5 categories for the “little” things that need to be on your novel-writing checklist. Although primarily cosmetic, they are still crucial.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 63: Purple Prose
Nov 5, 2017 • 13 min
Learn what purple prose is, how to recognize when you’re creating it, and how to write genuinely excellent prose in its place.
The Great Novel-Writing Checklist
Oct 30, 2017 • 17 min
The 5 items on this novel-writing checklist will impact every page. Whether you’re writing or revising, make sure all your story’s pieces are in place.
4 Ways to Prevent Formulaic Story Structure
Oct 23, 2017 • 16 min
Worried about formulaic story structure? Learn four ways to find the perfect balance between utilizing structure and unleashing your originality.
The Only Good Reason to Write
Oct 16, 2017 • 17 min
Learn to recognize 5 negative reasons to write and use them as launch pads to greater growth in uncovering the only true reason to write.
4 Reasons You’re Confused About Scene Structure (With Examples)
Oct 9, 2017 • 12 min
Confused about scene/sequel? You probably know more than you realize. Here are five facts about scene structure to help you stop overthinking.
5 Tips for Organizing Subplots
Sep 18, 2017 • 18 min
You cannot master the art of organizing subplots without mastering the art of plotting itself. Here are five ways to add complexity and power to your story.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 62: Head-Hopping POV
Sep 4, 2017 • 11 min
Take a look at what “head-hopping” means, why it creates problematic POVs, and how you can correct it to create a stronger story.
7 Ways to Write Thematically-Pertinent Antagonists
Aug 28, 2017 • 20 min
Explore seven different ways to connect thematically-pertinent antagonists to your protagonist—and thus, your main conflict.
4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book
Aug 21, 2017 • 13 min
Harnessing creativity with logic starts and ends with the ability to identify your biggest writing challenges and frame appropriate questions about them.
4 Ways to Write a Thought-Provoking Mentor Character
Aug 14, 2017 • 17 min
Here are four ways you can amp up your story with a great mentor character without falling into all the usual stereotypes.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 61: 5 Types of Clunky Dialogue
Aug 7, 2017 • 14 min
Fixing clunky dialogue is one of the single best ways to give your manuscript a major facelift. Here are five rules of thumb to get you started.
5 Tips for Writing a Likable “Righteous” Character
Jul 31, 2017 • 19 min
Writing righteous characters is about making certain they are larger-than-life in their ability to reflect your readers’ own personal struggle for goodness.
16 Ways to Make Your Setting a Character in Its Own Right
Jul 24, 2017 • 16 min
What does it mean to make your setting a character in its own right? Here are 3 main questions (and 12 mini questions) to get you started.
Writing Voice: 6 Things You Need to Know to Improve It
Jul 17, 2017 • 14 min
Here are six important principles of the writing voice, including solid ideas for giving readers a powerfully authentic experience of your stories.
How to Ace the First Act in Your Sequel
Jul 10, 2017 • 18 min
Here are three ways to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the groundwork you’ve already laid when writing the First Act in your sequel.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 60: Flat Plots
Jul 3, 2017 • 16 min
Here are the three most obvious (and important) entry points to creating strong, dimensional storylines, rather than boring flat plots.
How to Calculate Your Book’s Length Before Writing
Jun 26, 2017 • 18 min
Use these intuitive methods to calculate your book’s length and plan the perfect timing for all the structural beats within your plot.
Learn How to Make the Most of the 5 Stages of the Writing Process
Jun 19, 2017 • 20 min
Find ideas for creating a writing process that is simple, steady, and provides a solid foundation you can return to with confidence every single day.
5 Ways to Write a Perfect First Draft (or Nearly)
Jun 12, 2017 • 16 min
The first step on the road to a perfect first draft is consciously addressing why so many writers believe this is an impossible idea.
Are You a Writer or a Storyteller?
Jun 5, 2017 • 17 min
Understanding whether you are more naturally a writer or a storyteller can help you optimize your strengths and holistically address your weaknesses.
5 Misconceptions About Writing That I Used to Believe
May 22, 2017 • 17 min
Let’s look at some of the misconceptions about writing I’ve fallen prey to during my career, so you, in turn, can avoid getting sucked into their undertow.
When Does Writing Get Easier? The 4 Steps to Mastery
May 15, 2017 • 17 min
“When does writing get easier?” is a question I’m often asked. And yet, all these years, I’ve been giving the wrong answer. Here’s the right one.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 59: Overly Complex Plots
May 1, 2017 • 15 min
The problem of overly complex plots is really the problem of authors writing stories they either fail to fully understand and/or aren’t in control of.
3 Ways to Make Your Writing More Visual
Apr 24, 2017 • 16 min
Only a handful of things raise a novel from mediocrity into something truly memorable. Learning how to make your writing more visual is one of them.
3 Ways to Test Your Story’s Emotional Stakes
Apr 17, 2017 • 18 min
Make sure your story passes these 3 important tests for acing its emotional stakes, and you’ll never have any problem getting readers to suspend disbelief.
How to Benefit From the Biggest Reason for Storytelling
Apr 10, 2017 • 12 min
In order to write pertinent and powerful stories, you must first understand why art is so important. Here are 3 reasons for the existence of stories.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 58: Too Much Description
Apr 3, 2017 • 20 min
Avoiding too much description is ultimately about controlling your entire narrative. Use these description tips to advance your plot, character, and theme.
The 7 Stages of Being a Writer (How Many Have You Experienced?)
Mar 27, 2017 • 17 min
Learn the important stages of being a writer and how you can navigate past the obstacles they present on your way up the mountain to mastery.
9 Tips for How to Write Opening and Closing Lines Readers Will Love to Quote
Mar 20, 2017 • 16 min
In learning how to write opening and closing lines that delight readers, keep these nine (and a half!) tips in mind and have fun creating something special.
5 Rules for How to Write a Sequel to Your Book
Mar 13, 2017 • 18 min
Discover five of the most important tactics for how to write a sequel that fulfills (and maybe even exceeds) your readers’ expectations.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 57: Dead-End Relationships
Mar 5, 2017 • 18 min
Discover how avoiding dead-end relationships will help you eliminate other story killers such as dull plots, insipid characters, and flat themes.
The Lazy Author’s 6-Question Guide to Writing an Original Book
Feb 26, 2017 • 18 min
Instead of worrying about writing an original book, start focusing instead on individuality. How? Here are six important questions to get you started.
Learn How to Pace Your Story (and Mind-Control Your Readers) in Just 8 Steps
Feb 19, 2017 • 16 min
Want readers to react to your story in just the right way? Learn how to pace your story, using these eight important pacing tricks to get you started.
8 Ways to Troubleshoot a Scene—and 5 Ways Make It Fabulous
Feb 12, 2017 • 17 min
Using these simple brainstorming tricks, you can figure out how to troubleshoot a scene and turn it into one of the highlights of your entire manuscript.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 56: Unfulfilled Foreshadowing
Feb 5, 2017 • 15 min
Learn the three ways you can go wrong with unfulfilled foreshadowing, as well as five ways to avoid accidentally creating it in the first place.
How to Find Exactly the Right Story Hook
Jan 29, 2017 • 19 min
If you’ve created a unique story premise, you’re only halfway to hooking readers. Discover two ways to write a gripping story hook in your first chapter.
How to Outline a Series of Bestselling Books
Jan 15, 2017 • 16 min
Figuring out how to outline a series may explode your preconceptions about the process and teach you so much more about outlining and storycraft in general.
Top 10 Ways to Rivet Readers with Plot Reveals
Jan 8, 2017 • 19 min
Plot reveals are the secret ingredient to create complex and skillful stories that thrill readers on every page. Learn how to find them in your every scene!
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 55: Beginning Your Story Too Late
Jan 1, 2017 • 17 min
If you have the sadly sinking suspicion you might be beginning your story too late, consider the following six signs and solutions.
Deepen Your Story With Character Misdirection
Dec 25, 2016 • 17 min
Character misdirection is a delightful game authors get to play in their stories. Who’s good? Who’s bad? We don’t know! Here are 5 ways to entrance readers.
The #1 Way to Write Intense Story Conflict
Dec 18, 2016 • 13 min
To reach your goal of writing gripping and intense story conflict, you must first learn how to make that conflict matter to readers. Here’s how!
A New Way to Think About Scene Structure
Dec 11, 2016 • 11 min
Learn a simple secondary tool you can bring in as a support for the classic (but sometimes mechanical) approach to scene structure.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 54: Story Events That Don’t Move the Plot
Dec 4, 2016 • 13 min
Once you understand what to look for, you can find and fix even the most extraneous of story events before they derail your book’s narrative.
How to Write a Scene Outline You Can Use (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 9)
Nov 27, 2016 • 14 min
Here are 6 tricks to making the most of the final outlining step. You’ve been waiting for it a long time, and here it is: how to write a scene outline!
Making the Most of Character Interviews (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 8)
Nov 20, 2016 • 15 min
Character interviews increase both the ease of writing a new character and his success in driving your plot. Grab my master list of interview questions!
How to Structure Your Story’s Outline (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 7)
Nov 13, 2016 • 17 min
Once you’ve discovered a general idea of your plot, you can use these three steps to figure out how to structure your story’s outline.
3 Tips for Weaving Together Your Story’s Pieces (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 6)
Nov 6, 2016 • 12 min
It’s impossible to figure out how to outline any one aspect of your story in isolation. Instead, learn 3 ways to “bob and weave” from one to the next.
4 Ways to Write Backstory That Matters (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 5)
Oct 31, 2016 • 17 min
Backstory influences plot events, character motives, and thematic subtext. Here are the only 4 questions you need to find your best backstory.
How to Find and Fill All Your Plot Holes (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 4)
Oct 24, 2016 • 14 min
When you approach plot holes purposefully during your outline, filling them in can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the entire writing process.
3 Steps to Find the Heart of Your Story (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 3)
Oct 17, 2016 • 17 min
Can you outline the theme of your story? If you start by asking yourself these three questions, you will be able to find the heart of your story every time.
Start Your Outline With These 4 Questions (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 2)
Oct 10, 2016 • 20 min
Where do you start your outline? Right here! Use these these four questions to discover the big-picture skeleton of your story.
How to Outline for NaNoWriMo: Should You Outline Your Novel?
Oct 3, 2016 • 15 min
Should you outline your novel before the first draft? And, if you do, how much is the right amount for you? Get ready for NaNoWriMo with this new series!
7 Questions You Have About Scenes vs. Chapters
Sep 26, 2016 • 15 min
Take a look at seven important questions about scenes vs. chapters, which will help you better understand and control your narrative.
The Secret to Writing Dynamic Characters: It’s Always Their Fault
Sep 19, 2016 • 17 min
It’s a joke among writers: we are so mean to our characters! But your pursuit of conflict can trip you up in writing dynamic characters. Learn why!
The Only 5 Ingredients You Need for Story Subtext
Sep 12, 2016 • 21 min
Learn how to create story subtext in everything you write using five simple but crucial principles.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 53: No Contractions in Dialogue
Sep 5, 2016 • 11 min
Find out why contractions in dialogue need to find a place in your writing—-along with a few exceptions, in which it is actually best to avoid them.
6 Reasons You Need to Make Way More Writing Mistakes
Aug 29, 2016 • 15 min
It’s time to stop beating yourself up over writing mistakes. Here are 6 ways to embrace them as one of the most rewarding parts of the writing process.
How to Find the Right Critique Partner: The 6-Step Checklist
Aug 15, 2016 • 16 min
Grab the 6-step checklist for vetting your fellow writers to help you figure out how to find the right critique partner on your way to success.
15 More Reasons Writing Is Important (in Your Own Words)
Aug 8, 2016 • 14 min
Turns out I am not the only one who believes writing is important. You do too! Here are the top 15 things you have taught me about the importance of writing.
How to Use Scrivener to Edit Your Novels
Aug 1, 2016 • 17 min
Scrivener does more than help writers outline and draft; it’s great for editing too. Here are 6 tips for how to use Scrivener to edit a better story.
5 Reasons Writing Is Important to the World
Jul 25, 2016 • 16 min
As writers, are we helping or hurting the world we live in? Are we wasting our time? I say no. Here are the 5 reasons I believe writing is important.
4 Ways to Verify Your Story Concept Is Strong Enough
Jul 18, 2016 • 13 min
Many a cool story concept has turned into a wasted story. But that’s not going to be you! Vet your your story ideas with this simple 4-question process.
7 Reasons You Need Story Theory
Jul 11, 2016 • 15 min
What’s story theory? It’s creative instinct actualized. It’s talent transformed into skill. Here are 7 more reasons every author must learn story theory.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 52: Stagnant Story Conflict
Jul 4, 2016 • 11 min
Too many authors write story conflict that isn’t so much conflict as a delaying tactic to fill their books. Learn how to fix this problem before it starts!
5 Secrets of Complex Supporting Characters
Jun 27, 2016 • 13 min
All you need to create complex supporting characters are the answers to these five important questions about each of your minor characters.
How to Plot a Book: Start With the Antagonist
Jun 20, 2016 • 17 min
Struggling to plot your book? Good things happen when you focus on figuring out how to plot your book by first examining your antagonist’s goals.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 51: One-Dimensional Characters
Jun 13, 2016 • 15 min
Is your character a one-trick pony? Learn 4 tricks for turning your one-dimensional character into a three-dimensional bombshell.
6 Tips for How to Organize Your Novel’s Edits
May 29, 2016 • 12 min
How to organize your novel’s edits can seem like a complicated question. Use these 6 steps to make things as simple and straightforward as possible.
How to Write Faster (and Why Maybe You Shouldn’t)
May 15, 2016 • 16 min
First, I’ll show you three steps to mastering a killer skill (namely, how to write faster)—and then I’m going to tell you why maybe you shouldn’t use it.
Planning Your Story: What George Lucas Can Teach You (Not) to Do
May 8, 2016 • 16 min
MEvery major problem in the Star Wars prequels could have been avoided with a little foresight. Discover 4 things you must consider in planning your story.
6 Tips to Help You Finish Your Book
May 1, 2016 • 19 min
Many obstacles can get in your way as you try to finish your book. Here are six tips you you can use to identify and fix the problems standing in your way.
Do You Have a Writing Superpower? (And Why You Shouldn’t)
Apr 24, 2016 • 12 min
Sometimes having a writing superpower means having a writing super-weakness too. But that doesn’t have to be you. Learn how to be good at ALL of writing.
Everything You Need to Know About Writing a 3rd-Person POV
Apr 17, 2016 • 18 min
Third-person POV is one of the most flexible and powerful points of view in fiction. Learn to master it—especially deep third—with these four tips.
Novel Research: 12 Ways to Ace Your Book
Apr 10, 2016 • 18 min
Turns out accuracy isn’t what’s most important in your novel research. Instead, use these twelve steps to entrance readers with your story’s authenticity.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 50: Info Dumps
Apr 3, 2016 • 18 min
Learn how to avoid four lethal types of info dumps, and, even better, how to use them as opportunities to strengthen every part of your writing.
How to Know When to Write The End
Mar 27, 2016 • 11 min
Unsure whether you’ve reached your story’s end? Answer these five questions to find exactly when to write the end to your story.
5 (More) Ways to Trim Your Book’s Word Count, Pt. 2 of 2
Mar 20, 2016 • 11 min
Armed with these five methods for micro-editing, you can trim your book’s word count by tens of thousands of unnecessary words.
5 Ways to Trim Your Book’s Word Count, Pt. 1 of 2
Mar 14, 2016 • 9 min
Learn 5 ways to trim your book’s word count on the macro level and create a story that’s all the tighter and more powerful for losing a few pounds.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 49: Weak Conjunctions
Mar 6, 2016 • 9 min
Bad news: most authors are blind to their weak conjunctions. Good news: once you are aware of them, they’re super easy to fix.
How to Create Awesome Scene Arcs That Surprise Readers
Feb 28, 2016 • 12 min
You can write perfectly structured scenes, but if they lack emotional arcs, they will still fall flat. Learn three ways to write powerful scene arcs.
5 Important Ways Storytelling Is Different in Books vs. Movies
Feb 14, 2016 • 16 min
Consider five prominent differences in books vs. movies, so you will understand which movie-centric techniques simply aren’t going to work in your book.
How Being an OCD Writer Nearly Killed My Career
Feb 7, 2016 • 14 min
Your attitude about being an “OCD writer” is affecting your ability to make a successful career out of your writing—in more ways than you might think.
The 4 Tweaks to Writing Truly Original Stories and Characters
Feb 1, 2016 • 14 min
Find out why originality is less crucial than you might think—and why you should still use this process to help you consistently write original stories.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 48: No Conflict Between Characters
Jan 31, 2016 • 7 min
Are you characters happy? They shouldn’t be! Learn to tackle this common writing mistake caused by lack of interpersonal conflict.
Your NaNo Novel Is a Hot Mess! How to Edit Your Book
Jan 24, 2016 • 15 min
Your real work begins with you have to figure out how to edit your book. Today, I’m going to show you how to navigate that potential minefield like a boss.
The Re-Readability Factor: Does Your Book Have It? 5 Ways to Make It Happen
Jan 10, 2016 • 13 min
The re-readability factor separates books that are just fun from books that impact lives on meaningful levels. Let’s explore five ways to do just that!
Most Common Mistakes Series, Pt. 47: Ineffective Setting Descriptions
Jan 3, 2016 • 10 min
Setting descriptions can be surprisingly tricky to detail effectively. Are you committing these three mistakes? Find out how they’re harming your story.
How to Study Plot and Character in Your Favorite Stories: 5 Easy Steps
Dec 27, 2015 • 12 min
Here’s an actionable five-step plan for going beyond simply being a reader and instead learning how to study plot and character in your favorite stories.
Coincidences in Fiction: What You’re Doing Wrong
Dec 20, 2015 • 12 min
Smart authors know coincidences in fiction are bad news. But how can you stomp them when you see them coming? Here are four ways.
Not Feeling Creative? 4 Ways to Reignite the “Wonder” in Your Writing
Dec 13, 2015 • 12 min
Like many authors, sometimes I find myself not feeling creative. Here are four steps we all can take this year to reclaim the wonder in our writing.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 46: Anticlimactic Endings
Dec 6, 2015 • 12 min
Here’s how to write books readers love—and yet still hate you for. It’s easy. All you have to do is divebomb into anticlimactic endings.
How to Choose the Right POV (What I Learned Writing Storming)
Nov 29, 2015 • 15 min
Consider three important factors in how to choose the right POV for your book—and how these factors can protect you from having to rewrite your book.
How to Write Multiple Antagonists (What I Learned Writing Storming)
Nov 22, 2015 • 13 min
Sometimes your story is going to require not just one, but multiple antagonists. When that happens, how do you juggle them all? Here are three ways
How to Write Can’t-Look-Away Chapter Breaks (What I Learned Writing Storming)
Nov 15, 2015 • 15 min
Don’t let chapter breaks be stumbling blocks between readers and the end of the book. Make breaks work for you by fascinating readers all the way through.
6 Steps to Create a Fantastic Narrative Voice (What I Learned Writing Storming)
Nov 8, 2015 • 14 min
Avoiding “said” is one of the most common writing mistakes? Yep. Avoiding this hard-working speaker attribution can lead you into some major prose problems.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 45: Avoiding “Said”
Nov 1, 2015 • 9 min
Turns out if you get your story’s narrative voice right from the very start, everything else has a much better chance of falling into place like magic.
How to Win NaNo Using Totally Doable Daily and Weekly Writing Goals
Oct 26, 2015 • 14 min
Here’s how to create super-productive writing goals for NaNoWriMo and beyond. The best part? They’re surprising painless.
7 Ways to Keep Writing During NaNo When You Only Want to Watch Football
Oct 19, 2015 • 13 min
If you can enforce all seven of these motivators in your writing life, they’re guaranteed to spur you to keep writing during NaNo and beyond!
6 Tasks You’ll Love Yourself for Checking Off Your NaNo Pre-Writing List
Oct 12, 2015 • 17 min
Don’t head into November without a battle plan. Arm yourself with this Nano Pre-Writing Checklist you’ll already be more than halfway to NaNoWriMo victory!
7 Ways to Use NaNoWriMo to Make You a Better Writer All Year Long
Oct 5, 2015 • 13 min
The most important goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t having an awesome November. It’s making sure you have an awesome rest of your writing life!
Your Fiction May Be Failing for One Simple Reason: You’re Not Being Honest
Sep 28, 2015 • 10 min
If you’re ever worried your fiction may be failing, use these tips to challenge yourself to search out the truth—big or small—in every scene you write.
How to Edit Fiction: Watch Me Correct My Own Story in Real Time
Sep 21, 2015 • 15 min
Need specific advice on how to edit fiction? Watch author K.M. Weiland edit her fiction in real time, featuring twelve lessons all writers can learn from.
8 Paragraph Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making
Sep 14, 2015 • 9 min
Paragraphs are just breaks in the text, right? Using them is about as intuitive as it gets, right? Maybe not. Learn to avoid eight nasty paragraph mistakes.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 44: Too Many Participle Phrases
Sep 7, 2015 • 9 min
Find out when participle phrases (those “-ing” words) are acceptable—and when are they not. Will using them make your book unacceptable to editors?
How to Write a Sequel That’s BETTER Than the First Book
Aug 31, 2015 • 14 min
Believe you have a potentially awesome sequel idea? Unleash it using this tips on how to write a sequel that’s even better than your first book!
Protagonist and Main Character- Same Person? The Answer May Transform Your Story!
Aug 24, 2015 • 11 min
Make certain you understand the differences between protagonist and main character - and how to leverage them against each other to create an amazing tale.
New Story Ideas Distracting You From Your Book? Find Out What You Should Do
Aug 17, 2015 • 14 min
Just because you have to wait to write your new story ideas doesn’t mean you can’t work on them. Learn about the care and feeding of multiple ideas.
4 Methods to Invigorate Your Prose With Surprising Sentences
Aug 9, 2015 • 9 min
Consider four ways you can invigorate your prose into something special by injecting the element of surprise into every single sentence.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 43: Too Many Exclamation Points!
Aug 2, 2015 • 10 min
Sometimes, exclamation points will be legitimate. But more often than not, they’re simply going to be overkill. Learn how to tell the difference!
4 Ways to Write a Likable Protagonist at the Start of His Character Arc
Jul 26, 2015 • 12 min
How can writers create instantly likable protagonists when the characters have to start their arcs as less-than-perfect people?
Whom Should You Be Writing For? Yourself or Your Readers?
Jul 19, 2015 • 12 min
Whom should you be writing for? Most of us are writing either for ourselves or for our readers—when we might just be better off doing both.
The Hardest Part of Writing Good Character Arcs-and How You Can Make It Look Easy!
Jul 12, 2015 • 12 min
You ready for this? The number one mistake authors make with character arcs is that they try to remake their character into someone new. Find out why!
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 42: When Your Story Stakes Aren’t High Enough
Jul 5, 2015 • 9 min
There are two different ways you can blow your story stakes—and both of them have the ability to ruin your book. Find out how to avoid them!
3 Ways to Make Writing Your Novel Easier
Jun 28, 2015 • 12 min
As much as writers relish the challenges writing offers, most of you love the idea of finding a way to make writing your novel easier. Discover three tips!
A Quick Guide to Beta Reader Etiquette
Dec 20, 2014 • 14 min
At last! A manual for beta reader etiquette—for how beta readers should conduct themselves and how writers, in turn, should respond.
What’s the Difference Between Your Story’s Theme and Its Message?
Dec 14, 2014 • 10 min
You cannot have a theme without a message, since your message is the vehicle on which your story’s theme will reach your readers.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 36: Too Much Introspection, Not Enough Interaction
Dec 7, 2014 • 8 min
Introspection can never take the place of interaction. When you end up with characters doing more observing than acting, that is often (although definitely not always) a sign you’re avoiding the best parts of your story.
Want a Powerful Theme for Your Novel? Play Devil’s Advocate!
Nov 23, 2014 • 8 min
Here’s the thing about a powerful theme. It’s not black and white. It’s not the moral of the story. It’s not an answer - it’s a question. And here’s the thing about questions: they very often have more than one answer.
What Is the Role of Theme in a Story’s Climax?
Nov 23, 2014 • 8 min
The role of theme in your story’s climax is all-important. The theme is what makes the whole thing work with any kind of realism or meaning.
Don’t Know Your Story’s Theme? Take a Look at Your Character’s Arc
Nov 16, 2014 • 9 min
Take a moment to consider your story’s theme. Does it leap right out at you? Or do you have to do a little digging?
How Much Realism Does Your Novel REALLY Need?
Nov 9, 2014 • 9 min
Readers could care less about realism. What they care about is the semblance of realism.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 35: Random Story Elements
Nov 2, 2014 • 13 min
Just as a symphony or a painting has to be a complete and cohesive whole, same goes for the novel. All the pieces have to fit, with none left over.
Why Your Character’s Goal Needs to Be 1 of These 5 Things
Oct 26, 2014 • 10 min
Even if your character’s goal only falls into one of these categories, you’ll be able to verify you’ve created a deeply realistic story, one that will resonate on a primal level with readers everywhere.
Story Concept and Story Premise: Do You Know the Crucial Difference?
Oct 19, 2014 • 8 min
Story concept and story premise are often used interchangeably, which just goes to highlight the rampant confusion about them.
FAQ: How to Write Character Arcs in a Series
Oct 12, 2014 • 9 min
Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile by using character arcs in a series. Your readers will adore you for it.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 34: Repetitive Dialogue
Oct 5, 2014 • 8 min
The reader’s time is valuable. Readers don’t have time to listen to us or our characters repeat ourselves - especially in repetitive dialogue.
What if Your Story Has No Character Arc?
Sep 28, 2014 • 8 min
If you have a story in which stuff happens and it’s interesting - but there’s no character arc - that doesn’t mean you might not still have a rip-roaringly grand tale on your hands.
You’ve Been Writing Sentences Wrong All Your Life! Find Out Why
Sep 21, 2014 • 7 min
If you’re not looking past sheer utilitarianism and exploring your sentences’ full potential for hooking, guiding, and fulfilling readers, then you’ve got a whole new world to explore!
How to Use Rewards and Punishments to Get Your Character to Change
Sep 14, 2014 • 8 min
What do you do when you run up against that gaping quandary: How do you get your character to change?
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 33: Telling Important Scenes, Instead of Showing
Sep 7, 2014 • 6 min
How do you know when a scene is important enough to warrant full-on showing? Consider the following checklist.
Should All Your Minor Characters Have Arcs?
Aug 31, 2014 • 11 min
Every prominent minor character should have an arc. Just not a full arc.
The Impact Character: Why Every Character Arc Needs One
Aug 24, 2014 • 8 min
The impact character is the one who enables, empowers, or sometimes just plain forces another character(s) to change.
Can a Character’s Arc Be a Subplot?
Aug 17, 2014 • 9 min
Should you decide to incorporate a character’s arc as a subplot, plan it just as thoroughly and specifically as you would if it were in the main plot.
How to Figure Out WHAT Your Character’s Arc Should Be
Aug 10, 2014 • 8 min
Choosing your character’s arc is every bit as important a decision as choosing the right plot.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 32: Boring Opening Lines
Aug 3, 2014 • 8 min
Consider some standard types of boring opening lines and what you can do to flip them around into something fascinating.
How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act
Jul 27, 2014 • 21 min
If the positive change arc is about redeeming self and the flat arc is about saving others, then the negative character arc is about destroying self and probably others as well.
How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 2: The Second Act
Jul 20, 2014 • 18 min
The Second Act is the heart of the negative character arc.
How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act
Jul 13, 2014 • 22 min
When structured properly to gain maximum resonance, a negative character arc can present sober realities that inspire great change in the world around us.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 31: One-Dimensional Conflict
Jul 6, 2014 • 7 min
Conflict is an essential ingredients of fiction. But one-dimensional conflict is not enough to plumb the depths of a story’s potential. Find out why!
Why Every Story You Write Is a Guaranteed Failure
Jun 29, 2014 • 8 min
No matter how many great facts you may come up with to prove your latest story is not a failure, you’re never going to kill the demon of doubt. Know why? Because your latest story is a failure.
How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act
Jun 22, 2014 • 21 min
In the Third Act of a flat character arc, the protagonist will be brought to a point where he seriously doubts his ability to use the Truth to defeat the Lie.
How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 2: The Second Act
Jun 15, 2014 • 20 min
In comparison to a positive change arc, a flat character arc in the Second Act emphasizes the character’s discovery of the Lie embedded in the world.
How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act
Jun 8, 2014 • 16 min
A flat character arc offers the opportunity for you to create a competent, committed protagonist who can transform the world around him.
Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 30: Describing Character Movements
Jun 1, 2014 • 7 min
Surprisingly, the most difficult part of describing character movements is simply remembering to describe those movements in the first place.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 15: The Resolution
May 25, 2014 • 12 min
The Resolution needs to fulfil two primary duties in finishing off your character’s arc.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 14: The Climax
May 18, 2014 • 16 min
This is where the author reveals what the journey the character just endured was really all about - and, in a positive change arc, why that journey has turned out to be worth all the heartaches and trauma.
Crafting Character Arcs, Pt. 13: The Third Act
May 11, 2014 • 16 min
Inside the character, the Third Act is all about him figuring out if he really wants to serve the Truth after all.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 12: The Third Plot Point
May 4, 2014 • 16 min
In character terms, the Third Plot Point hinges upon not just something bad happening in the outer conflict, but rather an inner choice on the protagonist’s part.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 11: The Second Half of the Second Act
Apr 27, 2014 • 13 min
The Second Half of the Second Act is where your character shifts out of the reactive phase (in which the conflict is being controlled by the antagonist) and starts moving into the active phase (in which he starts taking control of the conflict for…
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 10: The Midpoint
Apr 20, 2014 • 14 min
When planning your Midpoint, identify the Truth your character must recognize and create a mind-blowing scene to support it.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 9: The First Half of the Second Act
Apr 13, 2014 • 15 min
As you structure your character’s arc in the First Half of the Second Act, be sure to incorporate these four important elements.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 8: The First Plot Point
Mar 30, 2014 • 14 min
The effect of the First Plot Point on your character arc can be found in three important decisions your character must make.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 7: The First Act
Mar 23, 2014 • 14 min
The structure of character arc finds its foundation in the structure of plot - which begins with the First Act.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 6: The Normal World
Mar 16, 2014 • 14 min
The Normal World creates the standard against which all the personal and plot changes to come will be measured.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 5: The Characteristic Moment
Mar 9, 2014 • 15 min
Don’t settle for anything less than spectacular for your Characteristic Moment. This is your opportunity to create a fun and effective scene that will introduce your character in a way readers will never forget.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 4: Your Character’s Ghost
Mar 2, 2014 • 11 min
Ghost is moviespeak for something in your character’s past that haunts him.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 3: The Thing Your Character Wants vs. The Thing Your Character Needs
Feb 23, 2014 • 12 min
The Lie Your Character Believes, which is the reason for all character arcs, is created from the conflict between the Thing He Wants and the Thing He needs.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 2: The Lie Your Character Believes
Feb 16, 2014 • 10 min
Out of resistance comes conflict; out of conflict comes plot. This is the first of many ways in which plot and character arcs are inextricable.
Crafting Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 1: Can You Structure Character?
Feb 9, 2014 • 8 min
Although the variations of character arcs are as endless as the vagaries of human nature, we can narrow character arcs down to three basic types, with a few primary variations upon each.
Most Common Writing Mistakes: Stories That Begin Too Early
Feb 2, 2014 • 6 min
If you are wondering whether or not you might have opened your story too soon, ask yourself these questions.
Warning Signs! Your Character Is Acting Out of Character
Jan 26, 2014 • 7 min
If you are getting reports that your characters are acting out of character, it may be a sign of a deeper problem in your plot, your character building, or your narrative flow.
How Minor Characters Help You Discover Theme
Jan 19, 2014 • 7 min
Find out how to put key minor characters to work in helping you build a more coherent and resonant theme.
How to Successfully Kill a Character: The Checklist
Jan 12, 2014 • 7 min
Is killing off a character really the best way to serve your story?
Eight and a Half Character Archetypes You Should Be Writing
Dec 22, 2013 • 12 min
Use thse character archetypes to bring full-fledged depth and resonance to both your plot and your theme.
How the Antagonist Affects Character Arc
Dec 15, 2013 • 6 min
Consolidating the power of your main antagonist into a catalyst for both halves of your story is a powerful way to bring cohesion to both plot and theme.
Most Common Writing Mistakes: Weak Character Voice
Dec 1, 2013 • 7 min
Weak character voice could be due to the simple problem of too much telling in your narrative.
How to Double Your Story’s Conflict in Seconds
Nov 24, 2013 • 5 min
Never let your character get off easily. If you can hit him from one side, you can hit him from two.
Top 25 Ways to Write an Awesome Book
Nov 17, 2013 • 4 min
A book is always going to be a tremendous undertaking that can feel more than a little complicated sometimes. But what if we could simplify the process?
7 Ways to Decide Which Story Idea You Should Write Next
Nov 10, 2013 • 8 min
Sometimes that will be an easy decision: the right story will be staring us in the face. But sometimes the choices can be overwhelming.
Most Common Mistakes: Under-Explaining
Nov 3, 2013 • 7 min
Avoiding under-explanation comes down to a few key techniques.
3 Signs You Should Give Up on Your Story
Oct 27, 2013 • 9 min
Three reasons why you should perhaps give up on your story.
5 Signs You’re Hiding Behind Your Writing - and 5 Ways to Use It as a Mirror Instead
Oct 20, 2013 • 7 min
If any one of those signs sounds familiar, then you may be robbing both yourself and your audience of the wonderful gift of a mirror.
Most Common Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals
Oct 6, 2013 • 7 min
If you can give your character solid story goals that keep him running through your plot, you will never have to worry about boring readers.
The Evolution of a Scene: From Outline to First Draft
Sep 29, 2013 • 8 min
Every scene in every story is an evolution.
10 Ways to Make Readers Loathe Your Antagonist
Sep 22, 2013 • 7 min
As important as it is to create lovable, relatable, fascinating protagonists, it’s every bit as important to create antagonists who can stand in your character’s way, prevent him from reaching his goals, and, as a result, create conflict.
How Not to Be a Writer: 15 Signs You’re Doing It Wrong
Sep 15, 2013 • 7 min
Ever wonder if you might be doing this whole writing thing wrong? Maybe we would do better on a How-Not-to-Be-a-Writer checklist.
Most Common Mistakes: Animate Body Parts
Sep 8, 2013 • 6 min
Animate body parts can often rear their ugly heads (pun intended) without our even quite being aware of what is happening.
Have You Chosen the Wrong Tone for Your Story?
Aug 25, 2013 • 6 min
The tone you choose for your story can make or break your book. It will affect every single page you write. Tone guides readers in figuring how they are supposed to view a story.
6 Must-Know Tricks for Getting to Know Your Characters
Aug 18, 2013 • 10 min
Writers have to know their characters down to their cores and understand how to flesh them out in the pages of their books.
Is Your Prose Too Complex?
Aug 4, 2013 • 6 min
Used wrongly or too often, complex prose can create distance between your readers and your words - or, worse, just leave them confused.
5 Ways to Write a Killer Plot Twist
Jul 28, 2013 • 7 min
Plot twists can bring a whole new dimension to your story. But done with less finesse than not, they can also submarine the whole thing.
How Story Cartel Gave Me 50-Plus Honest Reviews
Jul 21, 2013 • 8 min
In a nutshell, Story Cartel offers readers free e-books in exchange for honest reviews.
Crowdsourced Editing: The Future of Self-Publishing?
Jul 14, 2013 • 10 min
Could authors tap into crowdsourcing networks for help with mundane and time-consuming (and expensive) tasks like cover design, book layout, and editing?
When Your Scene Focuses on What Isn’t Happening
Jul 7, 2013 • 6 min
When we place the emphasis on non-actions, we’re failing to tell readers what they should be visualizing.
8 Promises You’re Making to Readers - and Then Breaking
Jun 30, 2013 • 6 min
Always be aware of what you’re promising readers.
Exclusive Dialogue: When Readers Don’t Know What Your Characters Are Talking About
Jun 23, 2013 • 7 min
Readers feel condescended to when you let your characters ramble on in enigmatic sentences that hint at something juicy and interesting without including readers.
Are You Over-Thinking Your First Draft?
Jun 16, 2013 • 8 min
We can start getting all obsessive-compulsive about creating a perfect first draft - and we end by totally psyching ourselves out.
How I Self-Edit My Novels: 15 Steps From First Draft to Publication
Jun 9, 2013 • 14 min
To create the best story possible, we have to not just spend the time to prep and write a book, but also the months and even years necessary to smooth out all its rough spots.
A Surefire Sign You’re Over-Explaining
Jun 2, 2013 • 5 min
Over-explaining can manifest in several ways, but the core of the problem is always repetition - and it’s usually symptomatic of authorial insecurity.
What if Your Antagonist Isn’t a Person?
May 26, 2013 • 6 min
The obstacle that stands between your character and his overall story goal could be any number of non-human manifestations.
5 Reasons You Should Stop Writing
May 19, 2013 • 7 min
Writers write. But sometimes, when they have good reasons for doing so, writers don’t write.
17 Steps to a Reader-Grabbing Title
May 12, 2013 • 9 min
What steps can you take to come up with your own perfect title?
The Do’s and Don’ts of Dialect
May 5, 2013 • 9 min
Trust your characters to be lovable without affectations, and trust your readers to be smart enough to hear the accents with only a few prompts.
How to Use Foreshadowing
Apr 28, 2013 • 8 min
Readers don’t like to be cheated, lied to, or tricked. And that’s where foreshadowing comes into play.
Be a Better Writer: Get Organized
Apr 21, 2013 • 7 min
If we can spend less time trying to find our favorite pen or our notes on one of our minor characters, we’ll be able to spend more time actually writing.
Why “Suddenly” Is a Four-Letter Word
Apr 7, 2013 • 6 min
“Suddenly” has this ironic tendency to mitigate the very effect it’s trying to create.
Why You Need to Be Excited About Every Single Thing You Write
Mar 31, 2013 • 6 min
Sitting down to write, in itself, isn’t enough. We also have to be excited about every single thing we write.
Why the Reader Is Your Co-Writer
Mar 24, 2013 • 6 min
When readers decide to join hands with us, they are, in essence, becoming our co-writers.
Top 10 Sentence Slip-Ups
Mar 17, 2013 • 10 min
Authors should learn to spot the most prevalent sentence slips-ups and know when to eliminate them from their stories.
Motivation-Reaction Units: Cracking the Code of Good Writing
Mar 10, 2013 • 8 min
If the structure that underlies our sentences and paragraphs is going to effectively convey our thoughts to our readers it will always adhere to the logical pattern of cause and effect.
Incidents and Happenings: Scenes That Aren’t Actually Scenes
Mar 3, 2013 • 6 min
What if something that happens in your story doesn’t seem to fit into the goal/conflict/disaster paradigm of the scene?
Frequently Asked Questions About Scene Structure
Feb 24, 2013 • 7 min
At first blush, scene structure can be a subject that takes a while to fully grasp and, as a result, can spawn all kinds of questions.
Variations on the Sequel
Feb 17, 2013 • 9 min
To help you realize the possibilities of the sequel, let’s take a look at some of the common variations we find.
Options for Decisions in a Sequel
Feb 10, 2013 • 11 min
This third and final piece of the sequel grows out of the character’s dilemma and leads right into the next scene’s goal.
Options for Dilemmas in a Sequel
Feb 3, 2013 • 10 min
Handled skillfully, a good dilemma can heighten tension, make characters more sympathetic, and, most importantly, keep readers turning those pages.
Options for Reactions in a Sequel
Jan 27, 2013 • 10 min
As soon as your previous scene’s disaster hits, your character is going to experience an immediate and instinctive emotional reaction.
The Three Building Blocks of the Sequel
Jan 20, 2013 • 10 min
The sequel is every bit as important as the scene, since it allows characters to process the events of the scene and figure out their next move.
Variations on the Scene
Jan 13, 2013 • 10 min
The great thing about structure is that it provides a solid framework for your story, while still presenting endless possibilities.
Options for Disasters in a Scene
Jan 6, 2013 • 11 min
Scene disasters come in every variety imaginable, but we can attempt to narrow them down into the four basic categories.
Options for Conflict in a Scene
Dec 30, 2012 • 11 min
Conflict can come in a variety of flavors, but most can be sorted into five categories.
Options for Goals in a Scene
Dec 23, 2012 • 11 min
Most scene goals will boil down into one of five categories.
The Three Building Blocks of the Scene
Dec 16, 2012 • 9 min
Today, we’re going to take a look at the three basic building blocks of the scene.
Mastering the Two Different Types of Scene
Dec 9, 2012 • 6 min
The scene - that most integral, most obvious, most universal part of any story - is also the most overlooked and least understood when it comes to the craft of storytelling.
6 Types of Courageous Characters
Nov 25, 2012 • 8 min
Readers will forgive a character just about any flaw, but never cowardice.
Why Non-Writers Give the Best Critiques
Nov 18, 2012 • 7 min
Non-writers can’t bring technical knowledge of the craft to the table, but they bring something else: their objective experience as readers.
Why Writers Should Never Hit Delete
Nov 11, 2012 • 6 min
The delete button is both the writer’s best friend and worst enemy.
Your Must-Have Book Checklist: From Idea to Publication
Nov 4, 2012 • 10 min
How do you get from idea to publication? How do you capture your beautifully incomplete inspiration and create a story you can share with the world?
10 Stories With (Brilliant) Loose Ends
Oct 28, 2012 • 6 min
Engage readers’ imaginations in filling in the rest of the story by not tying off all the loose ends.
How to Tell if Your Book Is a Success
Oct 21, 2012 • 7 min
If we’re ever going to find happiness as writers, we have to understand what success means to each of us as individuals.
What’s Your Writing Personality?
Oct 14, 2012 • 12 min
A quick look at all four personalities to help writers identify into which categories they prominently fall and how to make the most of them.
Are You Skipping the Best Parts?
Oct 7, 2012 • 6 min
Sometimes, without even realizing it, writers can end up skipping the best parts and leaving readers growling their frustration.
Professional Resources for Writers
Sep 30, 2012 • 5 min
Whether you’re wanting to publish traditionally or independently, chances are these talented people will be able to help you achieve your goals.
Why Story Beginnings and Endings Must Be Linked
Sep 23, 2012 • 5 min
Your story question must be presented in the beginning of the story in order for the ending to resonate.
Why Your Story’s Conflict Isn’t Working
Sep 16, 2012 • 6 min
Conflict, just for the sake of conflict, is not only just as boring as zero conflict, it’s also much more difficult for readers to swallow whole.
10 Excuses for Not Writing - and How to Smash Them
Sep 9, 2012 • 8 min
Consider some of our most common writing excuses, when they’re true, when they’re not, and how to get past them.
Most Common Mistakes Series: Does Your Character Lack Purpose?
Sep 2, 2012 • 5 min
The result of any of these purpose-sapping boredom causers will be treacle-slow scenes that fail to move the plot forward - and probably don’t do much to advance character either.
5 Ways You’re Preventing Readers From Suspending Disbelief
Aug 26, 2012 • 7 min
If you can avoid these five illusion destroyers, you’ll be well on your way to a happily suspended and blissfully disbelieving audience.
Add Muscle to Your Fiction With Unity and Contrast
Aug 19, 2012 • 6 min
Depending on your intent in any given scene, you can apply unity and contrast to beef up your prose, pack muscle onto your descriptions, and add weight to your subtext.
6 Ways to Pull off Dual Timelines in Your Novel
Aug 12, 2012 • 6 min
Some stories are so complicated they require not just one, but two timelines to tell everything.
How You May Be Killing Your Story’s Tension
Aug 5, 2012 • 6 min
Tension is the threat of conflict. It’s conflict’s calmer - but no less potent - cousin.
5 Reasons to Write Your Scenes in Order (and 3 Not to)
Jul 29, 2012 • 7 min
Let’s explore some of the benefits to both linear and non-linear writing.
What’s the Purpose of Your Scene?
Jul 22, 2012 • 6 min
In creating meaningful and effective scenes, the most important questions every writer should ask himself are, What is the focus of this scene? What is its purpose?
10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask
Jul 15, 2012 • 6 min
Be wary of creating the kind of suspense that has readers floundering to understand the basics of your scene, rather than forging ahead with definite and pressing questions.
Talent vs. Learning: Do You Have to Be Born a Writer?
Jul 8, 2012 • 5 min
What if the dream of becoming a bestselling author is something within the reach of anyone willing to do a little hard work?
Why Do Bad Books Get Published?
Jul 1, 2012 • 7 min
Why do bad books get published? And what does that mean for unpublished authors who are writing quality stuff?
Are You Writing Your Novel Too Fast?
Jun 24, 2012 • 7 min
Are faster writers better than slow writers - or vice versa?
The Top 25 Ways to Blow a Book
Jun 17, 2012 • 5 min
Nothing we write will ever completely escape every mistake and pitfall. But some of those mistakes are more costly than others.
How to Spot and Fix Non-Reactive and Over-Reactive Characters
Jun 10, 2012 • 7 min
Readers must paint their pictures of our characters with only the colors we give them. Make sure you’re supplying them with just the right shades.
The Two Conflict-Creating Needs of Every Character
Jun 3, 2012 • 7 min
Every character needs not just two (or more) needs, but two friction-causing, conflict-creating, mutually exclusive needs.
How Routines Save (and Ruin) Your Writing
May 27, 2012 • 9 min
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of both routines and the lack of them.
Why Self-Conscious Writers Are Doomed
May 20, 2012 • 6 min
Aside from the general worries that our storycraft isn’t good enough, authors are also usually on the verge of freaking out about what people are going to think about us.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 12: Your Questions Answered
May 13, 2012 • 10 min
I asked those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter for story-structure questions you’d like me to address before I wrap up the series.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 11: The Resolution
May 6, 2012 • 12 min
Most books need an extra scene or two to tie off any leftover loose ends and, just as importantly, to guide your readers to the emotion with which you want to leave them.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 10: The Climax
Apr 29, 2012 • 10 min
The climax of a story should have readers on the edges of their seats. They should be breathless, tense, and curious to the point of bursting.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 9: The Third Act
Apr 22, 2012 • 11 min
By the time the third act is finished, all the salient questions must be answered, the conflict resolved one way or another, and the reader left with a feeling of satisfaction.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 8: The Second Half of the Second Act
Apr 15, 2012 • 10 min
Your main character caps the dramatic event at the midpoint with his decision to stop reacting and start acting.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 7: The Midpoint
Apr 8, 2012 • 10 min
The midpoint is what caps the reactions in the first half of the book and sets up the chain of actions that will lead the characters into the climax.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 6: The First Half of the Second Act
Apr 1, 2012 • 9 min
This first half of the second act is where your characters find the time and space to react to the first major plot point.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 5: The Inciting Event and the Key Event
Mar 25, 2012 • 9 min
The inciting incident sets the story in motion while the key incident is what the story is about and draws the main character into the story line.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 4: The First Plot Point
Mar 18, 2012 • 9 min
The first plot point marks the finish of the first act, and the character’s reaction to it marks the beginning of the second.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 3: The First Act
Mar 11, 2012 • 9 min
Once you’ve hooked the reader, your next task is to put your early chapters to work introducing your characters, settings, and stakes.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 2: The Hook
Mar 4, 2012 • 7 min
The hook comes in many forms, but stripped down to its lowest common denominator, the hook is nothing more or less than a question.
The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 1: Why Should Authors Care?
Feb 26, 2012 • 7 min
Let’s consider a few of the reasons every author should care about structure - and why none of us should fear it.
A Wordplayer’s Manifesto
Feb 19, 2012 • 7 min
To make the most of our lives as writers, we must understand the core principles and defining moments of being an author.
The Writer’s Guide to Punctuation
Feb 12, 2012 • 7 min
When we choose the wrong punctuation in the wrong place, the result is the readerly equivalent of coughing over too much cayenne pepper.
The Case of the Vanishing Setting
Feb 5, 2012 • 7 min
Authors see everything so perfectly that we don’t always realize we’re not providing the reader the necessary details to allow him to see the setting.
Why I Hate Grammar Nazis - And Why Am One
Jan 29, 2012 • 6 min
To be effective in sharing our knowledge with the leetspeakers, we have to realize why most people hate the guts out of Grammar Nazis and then approach with caution.
Don’t Let Multiple-Character Scenes Run Away With You
Jan 22, 2012 • 5 min
How do we juggle scenes in which multiple characters are all supposed to be acting and talking?
How I Learned to Write - And How You Can Too
Jan 15, 2012 • 7 min
Even the Margaret Atwoods and Stephen Kings had to log their time as frustrated, fearful authors who had no idea what they were doing.
Don’t Drown Your Readers in Explanations
Jan 8, 2012 • 5 min
Always be aware of why you’re including a particular explanation, then reevaluate it to determine its value and don’t be afraid to chop it if it’s interrupting the information that’s of true importance to your story.
12 Writing Resolutions for the 12 Months of 2012
Jan 1, 2012 • 4 min
This year, instead of making a complete list of writing resolutions for the whole year, try implementing one new resolution every month.
The Christmas Gifts I’m Most Thankful For This Year
Dec 25, 2011 • 4 min
Today, I’d like to share a little bit of my own holiday cheer with a list of the (mostly) writing-specific gifts I’ thankful for this Christmas.
How Do You Decide Which Story You Should Write?
Dec 18, 2011 • 5 min
Although sorting through our fat idea folders can sometimes seem like an overwhelming challenge, don’t forget that an abundance of ideas is an author’s greatest blessing.
25 “Under $25” Christmas Gifts for Writers
Dec 11, 2011 • 2 min
You might find the perfect gift for the fellow writer on your list - or you may find something to add to your own “Dear Santa” list!
Are Your Flashbacks Flashy or Flabby?
Dec 4, 2011 • 7 min
To flashback or not to flashback? Sooner or later, that’s a question every writer is confronted with.
Action/Reaction - The Pistons Powering Your Story
Nov 27, 2011 • 5 min
It’s vital the author understand the differences between action and reaction, so he can identify which course is preferable at key moments in the story
4 Reasons to Mimic the Masters - and 4 Reasons Not to
Nov 20, 2011 • 6 min
Copying another writer boils down to nothing more or less than mimicry, and mimicry, as we all know, is one awesome compliment.
How Do You Know Which Rules to Break?
Nov 13, 2011 • 5 min
When the writing gurus tell you to be brave and break some rules, for crying out loud, which rules are they talking about?
Do Readers See Your Characters the Way You Want Them To?
Nov 6, 2011 • 6 min
When you write your story, but particularly as you revise, be on the watch for the balance that emerges about your character from the details you present.
10 Fear Busters for Writers
Oct 30, 2011 • 6 min
Let’s take a look at ten methods for cracking our whips at our fears and forcing them to respond to our shouts of “back, back, vicious beast!”
5 Elements of a Resonant Closing Line
Oct 23, 2011 • 8 min
Explore the five elements that will help you craft the kind of closing line that caps your entire story and leaves readers with a feeling of unforgettable resonance.
5 Fun and Easy Ways to Lengthen Your Word Count
Oct 16, 2011 • 5 min
In comparison to giving your overweight manuscript liposuction, fattening up an anorexic story often feels like trying to create something out of nothing.
The Dangers of Character Overload
Oct 2, 2011 • 4 min
When authors are dealing with large casts of characters, readers sometimes find themselves in grave danger of character overload.
What Elements Make a Good Book?
Sep 25, 2011 • 4 min
What makes a good book? Everyone has his own take. Some readers like action, some prefer romance. Some like a little of both.
5 Elements of a Riveting First Line
Sep 18, 2011 • 7 min
The opening line of your book is your first (and, if you don’t take advantage of it, last) opportunity to grab your reader’s attention and give him a reason to read your story.
Why Your Hero Absolutely Must Pet a Dog
Sep 11, 2011 • 7 min
If you find yourself with a dark character on your hands, stop worrying about whether or not audiences will like him and up the odds by giving him a dog to pet.
Most Common Mistakes Series: Is Nothin’ Happening in Your Scene?
Sep 4, 2011 • 7 min
Let’s take a look-see at some of the signs your scene may be more of the nothin’ sort than the happenin’ sort.
Why Your Protagonist and Antagonist Should Be Stuck Like Glue
Aug 28, 2011 • 4 min
Let’s take a gander at seven possible adhesives you can use to keep your protagonist and his antagonist stuck like glue.
Captain America’s 10-Step Guide to the Likable Hero
Aug 21, 2011 • 4 min
Likable characters require careful crafting if they’re to come to life in a way that is not only believable but compelling.
10 Stylistic Mistakes Sabotaging Your Story
Aug 14, 2011 • 4 min
Make sure you’re not letting any of these potentially tragic gaffes sabotage your reader’s trust in your competency.
7 Ways to Make Family and Pets Respect Your Writing Time
Aug 7, 2011 • 6 min
Guidelines for getting friends, family, co-workers, and pets to respect your writing time - without your needing to resort to death threats.
Why You Should Kick Your Story Aside and Write a Different One
Jul 31, 2011 • 5 min
Life is too short and too full of stories for us to spend all our time slaving away on just one book.
What The Story Knows Best Really Means
Jul 24, 2011 • 5 min
The phrase “the story knows best” is a pie-in-the-sky concept used by writers to describe the indescribable.
Deus Ex Machina: Latin for Don’t Do This in Your Story
Jul 17, 2011 • 5 min
This plot device might have worked for the ancient Greeks and Romans, but for modern authors it presents a number of difficulties.
The Fast and Easy Guide to Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender
Jul 10, 2011 • 5 min
Writers too often create unrealistic characters by imposing their own perceptions (or fantasies) onto the opposite sex.
Is Your Opening Line Lying to Your Readers?
Jul 3, 2011 • 5 min
Your opening line may be bristling with energy, danger, and barbed fishhooks with which to reel in your readers, but if the paragraph that follows pulls the old switcheroo, your reader is more likely to be irritated than impressed.
Why There’s No Such Thing as a Writing Expert - And Why That’s a Good Thing
Jun 26, 2011 • 5 min
No matter where we are in our writing lives, no matter how many bad stories we write, no matter how many good stories we write, no matter how much we’ve learned or how much we’ve mastered - we still don’t know anything.
Save Your Readers From Boredom: Five Fool-Proof Preventatives
Jun 19, 2011 • 5 min
If you can avoid these five boredom bombs, you can slay reader apathy before it starts and keep them riveted from page one all the way through to the end.
4 Tricks for Picking the Perfect Word
Jun 12, 2011 • 5 min
Let’s explore four sophisticated linguistic techniques for choosing and using words.
Is Your First-Person Narrator Overpowering Your Story?
Jun 5, 2011 • 5 min
The first-person narrator, more than any other type of narrator, is inclined to lapse into self-centered telling, in which he overpowers the story, at the expense of the other characters and even the plot itself.
Are Happy Endings a Must?
May 29, 2011 • 5 min
Few of us would want to subsist on a steady diet of tragedy, but all of us are better for having occasionally cleansed our reading palate with the astringent bite of these unflinching portrayals of bittersweet truth.
The Kung Fu Panda Guide to Writing Action Scenes
May 22, 2011 • 7 min
Fight scenes, chase scenes, and other action extravaganzas appear in stories of every genre, so consider these tips to make sure yours are legendary
The Secret Ingredient of Original Stories
May 15, 2011 • 4 min
Are there any original stories left to be written? And, if so, how do you find one to write?
Ideas for Constructing Your Own Writing Routine
May 8, 2011 • 4 min
Organizing my daily writing routine into a series of specific steps helps me get the most out of every minute I spend writing.
Understanding - and Accepting - the Reasons You Write
May 1, 2011 • 5 min
At the end of the day, what’s important isn’t so much understanding the reason you write as it is accepting that you don’t always need an explicit reason.
What Is a 50-Page Edit… and Why Will It Rock Your Story?
Apr 24, 2011 • 5 min
The 50-page mark is the perfect place to stop and remember where you’ve been, so you have a better idea of where you’re going.
How Not to Use Speaker Tags and Action Beats
Apr 17, 2011 • 5 min
Let’s a take a look at two means for indicating speakers and varying the rhythm of speech and narrative: the speaker tag and the action beat.
3 Traits Your Hero and Villain Should Share
Apr 10, 2011 • 6 min
The more similar your hero and villain, the stronger your story, the more realistic your characters, and the deeper your exploration of theme.
4 Ways to Avoid the Pitfalls of a Writer’s Solitude
Apr 3, 2011 • 6 min
As important as it is to claim large chunks of uninterrupted writing time, it’s also important that we make time to actually live our lives.
Why Writers Should Take Their Own Advice
Mar 27, 2011 • 5 min
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing for a writing mentor - someone with the savvy, experience, and generosity to reach down and guide you in your own writing journey - today’s your lucky day!
Why Vague Writing Is Weak Writing
Mar 20, 2011 • 5 min
As the creator of our worlds and our characters, we don’t have to wallow in the quagmire of vague details and fuzzy ideas. We can make statements of authority because, if we’re not the authority in our stories, who is?
Are You Asking These Important Questions About Your Fantasy Setting?
Mar 13, 2011 • 6 min
Even if you already have a good idea of the specifics of your world, taking the time solidify your ideas by answering these, and other, questions can inject more life and realism into your setting and allow you to spot flaws and inconsistencies.
What I Love Lucy Can Teach You About Writing Tics
Mar 6, 2011 • 6 min
Some words are overused so often that they find their way onto the Wanted: Dead or Alive list of practically every author, agent, and editor (not to mention reader).
8 Signs Your Writing Is Stuck in a Rut - And Why You Should Care
Feb 13, 2011 • 5 min
Thanks to laziness and fear - and often oblivion - it’s much too easy to fall into comfortable patterns that eventually descend into blatant repetition.
Are You Confusing Readers With Poor Cause and Effect?
Feb 6, 2011 • 6 min
If you can strengthen the narrative of your story by showing a logical progression of cause and effect, you’ll end up with leaner prose, more honest character reactions, and more involved readers.
The Good News? Writing Never Gets Any Easier
Jan 23, 2011 • 5 min
Recognizing, and even appreciating, the fact that writing will always be difficult, frees us from the doubt, and even guilt, of feeling we’ll never be good enough - because the truth is we won’t.
Why You Should Read the Type of Stories You Write
Jan 23, 2011 • 4 min
Studying stories of the type you want to write is legitimately important research, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
10 Steps for Getting Past the “This Stinks” Blues
Jan 16, 2011 • 5 min
No story is perfect; no author is perfect. This is a sad fact that every writer has to face sooner or later.
Are You Using “There” as a Crutch?
Jan 9, 2011 • 4 min
Whenever you see the word “there” used as a pronoun, you can be sure it’s being used as a crutch to hold up a weak and passive sentence.
10 Writing Resolutions You Can Fulfill
Jan 2, 2011 • 6 min
When we focus on the goals that are slightly more achievable, we’re not only more likely to pull them off, but we’ll also feel much better about ourselves come next year.
7 Reasons Weather Is a Writer’s Friend
Dec 26, 2010 • 5 min
Weather, like most description, is best delivered in small doses, interspersed with the action and dialogue, and offered only when important.
Are Your Verbs Showing or Telling?
Dec 19, 2010 • 5 min
Keep your eyes open for places where you can effortlessly strengthen your scene by using verbs that show instead of tell.
8 Reasons to Let Your Story Ripen
Dec 12, 2010 • 5 min
It takes time and breathing space for us to figure out which ideas are worth committing to for the long haul.
What Kind of Writer Are You?
Dec 5, 2010 • 5 min
It’s vital that each author discover for himself the methods that work best for him.
Description: Friend or Foe?
Nov 28, 2010 • 5 min
Avoiding description is impossible, and attempting to avoid it does nothing but tie an author’s hand.
Why Are You Writing This Story?
Nov 14, 2010 • 5 min
Figure out what makes this story more worth writing than any other story, and let that reason empower you in every subsequent word you write.
Are You Dating Your Fiction?
Nov 7, 2010 • 6 min
Pleasing both our present and future readers can seem like an impossible task. But with a little bit of foresight and practicality, we can sidestep the most egregious pitfalls.
Juxtaposition: The Power of the Unexpected in Fiction
Oct 31, 2010 • 5 min
One of the easiest ways to add depth to a story is to introduce one of the most marvelous techniques known to writers: juxtaposition.
Use Motion to Spice up Your Scenes
Oct 24, 2010 • 5 min
A character who’s moving - even if he’s just walking across the street - gives the reader the sense that the story is moving forward along with him.
Love Your Characters - Or Else!
Oct 17, 2010 • 5 min
When we write from a character’s POV, we must become that character - and that means that if we fail to love him, we will fail to understand him and, as a result, end up looking down our noses and sermonizing.
Is Your Dialogue Pulling Its Weight?
Oct 10, 2010 • 5 min
It’s easy enough to make our characters talk to each other and even relatively easy enough to make what they say interesting to the reader. But if interesting is the only burden our dialogue is carrying, it’s not doing its share.
The Worst Writing Advice
Oct 3, 2010 • 5 min
Some of the worst advice ranges from downright discouragement to bits that perhaps are specific only to some of us.
The Best Writing Advice
Sep 26, 2010 • 6 min
Because writing is an art form that can largely be learned, and because it is a craft that can always be perfected, most writers learn early on to study to show themselves approved.
Are You a Writer?
Sep 19, 2010 • 6 min
It’s much too easy for us - no matter where we are on the writing ladder - to feel that what we’re writing isn’t important enough to qualify us for a full-fledged Writer Card.
Research: When in Doubt, Make It Up
Sep 12, 2010 • 7 min
So long as you’ve exhausted your avenues of research, and so long as you’ve got a little chutzpah on your side, you can fake what you don’t know, and readers will never notice the glue between the cracks.
Is Your Story Mysterious Enough?
Sep 5, 2010 • 6 min
The specifics of the mysteries in every story will differ according to each story’s demands, but following are some general guidelines on what information an author can and can’t safely withhold.
Should You Edit As You Go?
Aug 29, 2010 • 5 min
In order to decide whether you should edit as you go or not, you need to evaluate your writing methods and decide whether or not perfectionism is likely to slow you down to the point where that first draft will never get written
Are You Benefiting From the Intimacy of Pronouns?
Aug 15, 2010 • 4 min
Using pronouns to replace character names, whenever possible, creates a seamless flow of narrative that puts the focus on the what and how of your scene once you’ve established the who.
5 Steps to Dazzling Minor Characters
Aug 8, 2010 • 6 min
For every vivid minor character with whom you surround your protagonist, you’ll be able to give readers one more reason not to put your story down.
Whap! Pow! Zing! - How Can You Tell if Your Story Has Emotional Resonance?
Jul 25, 2010 • 6 min
Even perfectly crafted books can’t always guarantee an emotional reaction from readers. So how do you go about infusing this all-important essence into your fiction?
Why Your Character’s Motive Matters
Jul 18, 2010 • 5 min
Readers want to understand a character by seeing what he does. However, often, it’s what a character wants to do that matters even more.
6 Reasons a Premise Sentence Strengthens Your Story
Jul 11, 2010 • 6 min
All stories begin with a premise. But, often, our original conceptions are hazy and unformed.
Is the Thesaurus Your Friend?
Jul 4, 2010 • 4 min
If you feel that a thesaurus would benefit your writing, why not use it? In my case, the benefits far outweigh any drawbacks, and my thesaurus remains a valuable tool in my writing toolbox.
Should Stories Be Soapboxes?
Jun 27, 2010 • 5 min
When you strip fiction down to its essentials, the authors viewpoint is all there is. He may mask it artfully in the colorful garb of diverse characters and impartial dialogue, but if he’s not willing to share with his readers his own passionate…
Why No Writer Knows What He’s Doing
Jun 20, 2010 • 4 min
If we flip the coin on its head, and look at the other side, we discover some mighty interesting benefits to this seeming defeatism, including the marvelous commiserative comfort of knowing that even the likes of Hemingway and Goldman struggled with…
Change is the Key to Powerful Character Arcs
Jun 13, 2010 • 4 min
You can come up with the most entertaining, marvelous character imaginable, but unless you also give him a strong and convincing character arc, his story will lack depth and power.
Maximize Your Story’s Inciting Event
Jun 6, 2010 • 5 min
The inciting event is the moment your character’s world is forever changed. It knocks over the first domino in the line of dominoes that forms your plot.
8 Ways Writing Longhand Frees Your Muse
May 30, 2010 • 5 min
Returning to the caveman technology of pen and paper can have a surprisingly freeing effect on our muses.
Generality Is the Death of the Novel
May 23, 2010 • 5 min
The difference between specific fiction and general fiction is the difference between stories that come to life and stories that lie dead on the page.
Creating a Functional Writing Station
May 16, 2010 • 4 min
It’s important to discover the atmosphere that best encourages your creativity and foster that atmosphere as much as possible.
Improve Yourself, Improve Your Writing
May 9, 2010 • 2 min
We’re all striving to be the best writers we can be. But the only way to be a better writer is to be a better person.
When Your Story Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Planned
May 2, 2010 • 4 min
Chances are good that our stories will never quite live up to our expectations, but the challenge of bridging the chasm between idealized concept and finished product is one of the joys of the craft.
10 Ways to Write Skinny Sentences
Apr 25, 2010 • 5 min
If we want our characters and plots to hit the reader to the fullest effect, we have to put our sentences on a strict exercise regime that will let them emerge buff and trim and strong enough to the bear the weight of our stories.
Why Character Stereotypes Are a Good Thing
Apr 18, 2010 • 5 min
Because stereotypes are widely recognized, they provide us common ground with the reader. From that starting place, we then have the option of using the reader’s expectations to our advantage in any number of ways.
Daydream or Die!
Apr 11, 2010 • 5 min
Too often, in the mad rush of life’s busy work, daydreams are relegated to the shadowy cellars of our minds. We’ll think about them when we have time. When time never seems to come, however, our daydreams become a luxury we can’t afford. But, as writers,…
Are You Using Too Many Settings?
Apr 4, 2010 • 5 min
We often lose sight of the fact that settings are more than scenery. They’re the cohesive grounding, the foundation, of the whole story - and as such they need to be used with sparing care.
Does Your Story Have the Extraordinary Factor?
Mar 28, 2010 • 4 min
Readers want fiction to be extraordinary enough to thrill them with its strangeness and excitement. But they also want it be ordinary enough for them to find aspects they can relate to. So how is a writer supposed to pull off this apparent paradox?
What a Mouse Can Teach You About Story Arc
Mar 22, 2010 • 5 min
Who knew furry little rodents were such experts on story arc? See the foundational art of the three-act structure acted out to perfection!
Rewriting Made Easy
Mar 14, 2010 • 5 min
Rewriting is hard work, but it’s also very freeing and satisfying. Raising your story to its full potential, cutting its weaknesses, and beefing up its strengths is exciting! Don’t lament the work; revel in it. As E.B. White pointed out: The best writing…
15 Lessons From the Masters
Mar 7, 2010 • 5 min
When authors whose stories have impacted the world start talking, we start listening. Take a look at the following collection of wisdom on a myriad of writing topics. Be instructed, and be inspired!
Three Words That Kill Writing Procrastination
Feb 28, 2010 • 4 min
Much as we love writing, as soon we sit down and take one look at that intimidating blinking cursor, our tendency is to start procrastinating, usually with seemingly innocent minutiae that adds up before we know it.
Why You Should Steal From Other Authors
Feb 21, 2010 • 4 min
Confession time: I pilfer the wealth of other writers’ words on a regular basis. I filch characters. I purloin themes. I steal plots. In other words, I am a big fat thief. And I want you to be one too.
Strengthen Your Story by Writing the Perfect Review
Feb 14, 2010 • 4 min
If you could have a professional reviewer read your book and totally get it - completely understand everything you were trying to say with your characters, plot, dialogue, and themes - what would he write about your story? Close your eyes for a moment,…
Plot vs. Character: Which Is More Important?
Feb 7, 2010 • 5 min
Good writing should not be about pitting plot against character, but rather about finding the harmony between them.
Are You Using Setting to Deepen Your Characters?
Jan 31, 2010 • 5 min
In the best of stories, setting is an inherent key in bringing to life not just the scenery but the characters themselves. As such, it isn’t something we can afford to overlook. Your answers to the following questions may show you the weak points in your…
Embrace Your Internal Editor
Jan 24, 2010 • 4 min
We’ve transformed the internal editor into a monster of epic proportions, but only because we haven’t learned to utilize him. Our editor’s not a fiend; he’s a friend. The best friend - and the best tool - a writer can have. But only if we embrace him.
Are You Called to Be a Writer?
Jan 17, 2010 • 4 min
Is our talent and desire for writing a gift we’re meant to use? Or is it just a harmless hobby, something to pass the time that others might pass by remodeling classic cars or playing soccer? Is our writing just a fun pastime - or is it a calling?
Why Word Count Goals Can Be Destructive
Jan 10, 2010 • 4 min
If you find you’re focusing more on your word count than your words themselves, you might want to consider releasing yourself from what could end up being a habit destructive to your productivity.
10 Habits of Successful Authors
Jan 3, 2010 • 5 min
Haven’t made your New Year’s resolutions yet? The following list is an excellent place to start, whether you’re jumpstarting your writing career, or whether you’ve been writing for years and need to scrape off some rust. If, by the end of the year, you…
11 Killer Chapter Breaks
Dec 27, 2009 • 5 min
Not every chapter needs to end with a cliffhanger, but they do need to encompass a question powerful enough to make the reader crazy to know the answer.
Are Your Characters Talking Heads?
Dec 20, 2009 • 4 min
By allowing your characters to communicate with their bodies as well as their mouths, you can open up a whole new layer of nuance in your dialogue.
How Music Will Make You a Better Writer
Dec 13, 2009 • 4 min
If you haven’t already done so, make music a part of your writing routine - and reap the benefits of immersion in the magical realm of stories without words.
Why You Should Write More Than One Genre
Dec 6, 2009 • 4 min
Every once in a while, dare to step outside the bounds of normalcy and see what unexpected adventures you can find off the beaten path.
4 Reasons I Quit Writing Exercises
Nov 29, 2009 • 5 min
Maybe journaling is a mine of creative gems for some people. Maybe it is conducive to that sometimes elusive dance with the muse. But maybe it’s also a waste of time.
How to Kill a Character - And Avoid Hate Mail
Nov 22, 2009 • 5 min
Some of the most powerful stories in literature and cinema have a surprising common element: The death of a main character. At first glance, this would seem to be an instant turnoff. Why hang with a character for 300+ pages only to watch him get knocked…
Top 7 Reasons Readers Stop Reading
Nov 15, 2009 • 6 min
When a reader pokes his bookmark in between the pages, stretches, yawns, and drops a novel back on his nightstand, it’s a terrifying moment for both novels and novelists alike. This is the moment we’ve worked and sweated and prayed to avoid. And yet it’s…
6 Reasons Not to Listen to Your Critique Partner
Nov 8, 2009 • 5 min
How do you know when to heed criticism? How do you know what’s worth listening to? You can start by asking yourself the following six questions.
11 Dichotomous Characters - And Why They Work
Nov 1, 2009 • 6 min
Fiction writing doesn’t offer many shortcuts or magic formulas. But today I am going to give you give you a secret ingredient in that coveted recipe for memorable and realistic characters. What is this ingredient? Dichotomy.
Emotional Connection: Punch Your Readers in the Gut!
Oct 25, 2009 • 5 min
As much as we want readers to intellectually appreciate the intelligence of our writing, we need them, even more, to react to the underlying pull of the story and its characters with utter, unthinking emotion.
Should You Outline Backwards?
Oct 18, 2009 • 4 min
Facing the wide, blank unknown of a story can be scary. Putting one foot in front of the other, when you’re unsure of the terrain, can be overwhelming. But when you can work your way backwards from a known plot point, finding your way becomes as simple as…
Why You Should Be Writing Scared
Oct 11, 2009 • 5 min
Whenever your comfort zone starts getting too comfortable, it’s a sure bet you’re no longer challenging yourself. Writing scared means pushing yourself to the limit, tackling projects that look unconquerable, and always forcing yourself to go just a…
Good Writers Are So Lazy, They Make Readers Do All the Work! by Jason Black
Oct 4, 2009 • 4 min
Experienced writers have learned that less really is more. Readers have great imaginations, and experienced writers have learned how to tap into them to make their own work come across more vividly and more believably. Experienced writers have learned how…
How You Can Take Advantage of Art’s Subjectivity
Sep 27, 2009 • 5 min
Experiencing art is like watching clouds. Two people can lie on the same grassy hill, watching the same cloud formations. But how they interpret the shapes of the clouds is an entirely individual experience. You may see a poodle on a leash, while in the…
Should You Write for a Specific Audience?
Sep 20, 2009 • 6 min
Know your audience is a common tenet of all media. After all, if you don’t know your audience, you can’t give them what they want, right? Yes and no.
9 Ways to Strengthen Your Beginnings
Sep 13, 2009 • 6 min
Unfortunately for us harried writers no surefire pattern exists for the perfect opening. However, most good beginnings do share a couple traits. Following are nine.
Angst, Mental Illness, and Creativity by Carolyn Kaufman
Sep 6, 2009 • 8 min
Guest post by psychologist/writer Carolyn Kaufman. Everyone talks about angst-ridden creative people, and I’ve had several readers ask me if angst is in fact a necessary ingredient for creativity.
It’s What Your Characters Do That Defines Them
Aug 30, 2009 • 5 min
As writers, it’s often very easy for us to talk on and on about our characters’ intentions. If we’re not careful, we often let our characters’ mouths run away with them, as they spend chapter upon chapter sitting around discussing and planning their next…
Why Genre Writing Could Kill Your Career
Aug 23, 2009 • 6 min
Art isn’t something that thrives within set parameters. By its very nature, creativity must be free to grow beyond even its creator’s initial concepts. When we sign up as genre writers - led on perhaps by our own love of certain types of literature,…
Backstory: The Importance of What Isn’t Told
Aug 16, 2009 • 5 min
When Ernest Hemingway spoke about the dignity of an iceberg being ” due to only one-eighth of it being above water,” he was speaking about the importance of the part of the story that isn’t told. Those nine-eighths underwater are the ballast for the tiny…
Choosing Your Character’s Career With Care
Aug 9, 2009 • 5 min
We’re defined by what we do, by our jobs and our career choices. Mention a profession (mechanic, stock broker, bull rider) and definite images and presuppositions pop to mind. As writers, we can hardly afford not to take advantage of those presuppositions…
Sticking With a Story
Aug 2, 2009 • 5 min
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sticking with a story, even when it seems beyond hope. It is true that not every story will be worth continuing, but every story is worth a second chance. Sometimes the most difficult and seemingly worthless…
yWriter Software Tutorial
Jul 26, 2009 • 4 min
yWriter was designed by author and programmer Simon Haynes, who apparently saw the same needs I saw in my own writing life and was able to use his programming expertise to put together one humdinger of a program. yWriter in the quintessential organizer…
Making Cliches Work for You
Jul 19, 2009 • 6 min
The sad fact is that, with thousands of cliches roaming about the vast landscape of the English language, it’s pretty darn near impossible to write a story without cliches. This is a fact. It’s also a fact that cliches are pretty much the kiss of death…
5 Ways to Pace Your Story
Jul 12, 2009 • 6 min
Pacing is like a dam. It allows the writer to control just how fast or how slow his plot flows through the riverbed of his story. Understanding how to operate that dam is one of the most important tasks an author has to learn. Without this skill, we end…
Details: Bringing Fiction to Life
Jul 5, 2009 • 6 min
We can write the most enthralling story ever told, but if we don’t artfully wield the details of that story, it will never live up to its full potential. As artists, we can’t avoid looking at the big picture at the expense of even the tiniest detail.
Characters: Likability Is Overrated
Jun 28, 2009 • 4 min
At first glance, it makes sense that the likability factor would be the single most important consideration a reader has in, well, liking a character. But I’m going to posit that likability is overrated.
Don’t Let the Big Words Die
Jun 21, 2009 • 5 min
It’s a sad fact that modern society is no longer as literate as it once was—and most authors don’t seem to be doing a lot to raise the bar.
Eliciting Emotion
Jun 14, 2009 • 6 min
Emotional responses, like all of fiction, are subjective. Due to our distinctive psychological makeups and the varied influencing factors of our individual lives, we each react differently to emotional stimuli. We can never expect to tap into the tears of…
Branded: Negotiating Consumerism in Fiction
Jun 7, 2009 • 5 min
If generality is the death of the novel, then specificity, including the specificity of brand names, must bring it life. But that doesn’t negate the pitfalls of branding in fiction. Discover the two of the biggest reasons I decided it was often better to…