Articles about how to write a novel

Why You Should Be Able to State Your Story's Theme in One Sentence

by Kathy Edens Mar 13, 2017

Why You Should Be Able to State Your Story's Theme in One Sentence

Theme is not your character arc, nor is it the plot or what happens to your character. It's actually the essence that ties those two together. If someone asks you "what is your book about?" you don't respond with scene-by-scene detail, or the changes your character goes through.

You think of your character and what essential thing she or he comes to understand through the course of the book.

If you can't do that, you don't have a firm grasp on your story's theme.

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Advice from Kurt Vonnegut that Every Writer Needs to Read

by Fred Johnson Mar 08, 2017

Advice from Kurt Vonnegut that Every Writer Needs to Read

Kurt Vonnegut, author of such classics as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, stands today as one of the 20th century’s most important American writers. I can’t think of anyone better placed to give literary advice, and, thankfully, he agreed with me.

These eight tips were originally written by Vonnegut to apply exclusively to writers of short stories, but I reckon they’re just as useful for writers of longer fiction.

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Writing App Reviews… One Stop For Writers

by Kathy Edens Mar 06, 2017

Writing App Reviews… One Stop For Writers

The founders of Writers Helping Writers have created an innovative platform for writers to boost their creativity and enhance their skill set: One Stop For Writers. The creators call it the "library," and it's complete with an "Information Desk," "Thesaurus," "The Stacks," and more.

Whether this is your first rodeo and you need some entry level writing help, or you're an old hand and just want a fun way to plan your novel, One Stop For Writers has scads of resources, templates, online tools, and lessons to help you write the best novel yet.

We're going to cover just the highlights because it can take you days of roaming around the "library" to see and experience everything.

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Infographic: Where Did These 10 Bestselling Authors go to College?

by ProWritingAid Mar 03, 2017

Infographic: Where Did These 10 Bestselling Authors go to College?

Want to be a writer? Wondering where some of the bestselling American authors got their educations?

Check it out!

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How to Use Trello to Storyboard Your Novel

by Kathy Edens Feb 28, 2017

How to Use Trello to Storyboard Your Novel

You may have noticed that we at ProWritingAid have a fondness for technology that makes writers better, stronger, more organized, and highly productive. If you like creating a storyboard for your novels, or if you want an innovative app to capture all of your to-do’s for your client work, let us introduce Trello.

For those of us who use sticky notes, index cards, and other forms of reminders to help you organize everything you need for a writing project, Trello is the easiest, most intuitive way to organize your work.

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Putting Your Writing Through Its Paces

by ProWritingAid Feb 27, 2017

Putting Your Writing Through Its Paces

Pacing is a lot like the throttle on a vehicle. There are times when driving that you need to move slowly, like through a city or in a school zone. Then there are times when you need to move a lot faster, like on the freeway. And there are times when you need to just coast along at a moderate speed.

The pacing in your novel is a writer’s tool to help you manage the speed and rhythm of your story. Sometimes you want fast action, just as other times, you need to slow things down and let the scene unfold.

It’s up to you to know when to use pacing. A lot of your pacing decisions will be based on your genre. If you’re writing an action story, it’s pretty fast-paced with exhilarating moments of danger mixed with adventure juxtaposed with quieter moments when your characters do some heavy thinking. If you’re writing an epic that spans over generations, it might move more slowly.

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How to Keep the Inner Flame Burning: 7 Tips from Outstanding Writers

by Scott Ragin Feb 13, 2017

How to Keep the Inner Flame Burning: 7 Tips from Outstanding Writers

Being a writer does not mean sitting and waiting for the inspiration. It's a life of hard work and perseverance, and each writer must find a way to keep their own inner flame burning.

Check out these 7 approaches from 7 authors, each of whom found their own methods that allowed them to keep producing amazing work.

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When It’s Time to Swim Against the Flow of Popular Fiction

by Kathy Edens Feb 13, 2017

When It’s Time to Swim Against the Flow of Popular Fiction Many writing experts advise that you consider the current market as you write. If a reader buys one kind of book and likes it, they will look for more of the same. This notion is why you’ll see clone books pop up whenever there’s a breakout novel that runs up the bestseller list. Those writers follow the market.

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4 Ways an App Can Make You a Better Writer (Yes, Really!)

by Lisa Lepki Feb 08, 2017

4 Ways an App Can Make You a Better Writer (Yes, Really!)

One of the biggest problems that creative people face is how to take their imagined ideas and communicate them clearly and effectively in writing. I dread to think how many incredible adventures, concepts, and viewpoints are locked up in the brains of people who struggle with the technical elements of writing. The part of the brain that we use for imaginative thinking is quite different from the part that actually crafts the sentences. And the quickest way to lose a reader’s confidence—even if your ideas are water-tight—is to present them with clumsy, awkward, error-filled writing.

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Attention Writers: Why You Should NOT Copy the Masters

by Kathy Edens Jan 16, 2017

Attention Writers: Why You Should NOT Copy the Masters

Chefs around the world don’t merely copy the recipes of other great chefs. Instead, they dissect the completed dish, looking for ways to improve it and make it their own. In the same sense, writers shouldn’t copy the masters. We’re not saying don’t learn from the masters, but rather dissect their work and see what makes it great.

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Is it Ever OK to Use Dreams in Your Novel?

by ProWritingAid Jan 16, 2017

Is it Ever OK to Use Dreams in Your Novel?

If you’ve taken writing courses at the university level, more often than not, your instructors have fervently cried: Never, ever, ever, ever start a story with a dream sequence. And if you Google “dreams in novels,” you will find a huge range of opinions on the matter. For every post scorning the use of dreams, there is one saying that when done well, dream sequences can move your plot forward.

But are there times when dreams are ok to use? Some authors have used them incredibly effectively in the past. .

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How to Construct a 3D Main Character

by Kathy Edens Jan 03, 2017

How to Construct a 3D Main Character Have you ever read something and about 50 pages into it, you’re just not feeling the main character? You’re either not invested in her conflict or she’s kind of … boring.

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Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

by Lisa Lepki Dec 19, 2016

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

Here are the posts from our blog that most resonated with our readers this year. Did your favorite make the list?

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How to Create Tension Like Andy Weir did in The Martian

by Kathy Edens Dec 12, 2016

How to Create Tension Like Andy Weir did in The Martian

If you haven’t read The Martian, it’s 369 pages of full-on tension. Mark Watney, the main character, faces one set-back after another as he’s fighting for his life on Mars. The stakes are pretty high; if he doesn’t get off Mars soon, he’ll die.

Weir is a master at creating tension. Just when things are finally going right for Watney, Weir pulls the rug out from under his feet. We watch as Watney perseveres through untenable disasters that would crush the rest of us. Weir keeps readers asking throughout the story, “How’s he going to get out of this one?”

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How to Foreshadow Like Alfred Hitchcock

by Kathy Edens Nov 21, 2016

How to Foreshadow Like Alfred Hitchcock

Foreshadowing allows you to plant clues, hint at what’s to come, build the tension, or even place a red herring in your reader’s path.

You can use foreshadowing in a variety of ways. The resulting action can be immediate or delayed. You can use dialogue or narrative to set the scene, and you can foreshadow a symbolic event or an ethical dilemma. You can use direct or indirect foreshadowing, and it can even be true or false.

Foreshadowing can feed the tension of a scene. Who doesn’t know the famous shower scene in the movie Psycho? Right before the character Marion Crane pulls up to the Bates Motel, her windshield wipers are slashing through the rain, foreshadowing what awaits her in the shower scene.

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Flashbacks: A Writer’s Best Friend (or Worst Enemy)

by ProWritingAid Nov 21, 2016

Flashbacks: A Writer’s Best Friend (or Worst Enemy)

A flashback is a scene you use in your current narrative to show something that happened in the past. The two key differentiators are: 1) it must be a scene (as opposed to narration about an event), and 2) it’s past news.

Flashbacks are great for building three-dimensional characters because readers gains insight on how a character’s thoughts, feelings, and morals were formed by important events. They’re also useful for dropping hints about what happened to lead your main character to the current point in time. They help your readers understand and care deeply about your characters and what happens to them.

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Check Out These New ProWritingAid Features

by ProWritingAid Nov 16, 2016

Check Out These New ProWritingAid Features

The newest version of ProWritingAid comes with some shiny new features to check out including a Word Explorer, summary reports, easier navigation, contextual thesaurus, detailed explanations and more. Take it for a spin now.

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How-To Techniques to Establish Pace

by ProWritingAid Oct 28, 2016

How-To Techniques to Establish Pace

Pacing your story is like using the throttle to give an engine more gas. With more throttle, the engine revs up and speed increases. Less throttle slows you down so you can see the passing scenery.

Controlling the pacing of your story is like maneuvering through city streets, main thoroughfares, and high-speed highways. You need different speeds to maintain control of your vehicle in each situation.

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How Literary Devices Can Add Depth to Your Writing

by Kathy Edens Oct 14, 2016

How Literary Devices Can Add Depth to Your Writing

The term “literary device” refers to some common techniques that writers use to add meaning to their writing and get their message across more poignantly. When mastered, literary devices can help your reader interpret your scenes and understand your ideas with greater depth.

There are hundreds of literary devices to choose from, but let’s talk about some of the ones that will add layers to your writing.

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Writing App Reviews…Rough Draft

by Kathy Edens Oct 14, 2016

Writing App Reviews…Rough Draft

We love technology at ProWritingAid and how it helps writers improve. Over the past few months, we’ve been checking out some of the best writing technology out there. We've already reviewed Scrivener, The Novel Factory, Ulysses, and ILYS, this month we look at a new app called Rough Draft.

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