The Writing Process
Researching can be fun. No, seriously. If you're writing about a new topic for a blog post or an interesting subject for a work of fiction, it's the details that help your writing ring true.
Some experts say you can't do too much research if you want your prose to be believable. There is a point, however, that research becomes a way to procrastinate the actual writing itself.Read More »
Have you ever been so engrossed in a book that if the ending isn't strong and doesn't resolve all the plot threads, you're disappointed in the whole book? I once read a novel with a deeply engaging main character I really connected with. She struggled and overcame and struggled and overcame. And at the very end of the book, the author killed her. WHAT? It's the only time I've ever thrown a book. And I refused to read anything more by that author.
You know how important it is to hook your reader from the very beginning. It's why you start in the middle of the action, plunging your reader right in so they get caught up in the excitement.
Your ending is as important…if not more.Read More »
Authors often discuss how reading improves your writing. However, there’s a big difference between passive and active reading, and if you’re serious about using published novels to improve your writing you must learn how to do the later.
When you read passively, you consuming a novel as entertainment – you’re trawling through without paying attention to detail. This lets you form a broad judgement (“this is great!”).
By contrast, active reading involves specific focus on an author’s craft. It is to passive reading what fly-fishing is to trawling. Active reading encourages your judgement to be precise (“this is great because the chapter endings created lots of suspense!”).Read More »
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.Read More »
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.Read More »
Want to be a writer? Wondering where some of the bestselling American authors got their educations?
Check it out!Read More »
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.Read More »
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.Read More »
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.Read More »
Let’s face it. A lot of writers are introverts who would rather stay holed up in front of a computer writing their next novel than go out there and network. (I humbly include myself in this crowd.) Networking experts, however, say you need to meet as many people as possible to find the right connections. This leaves us at quite a disadvantage when marketing and promoting our books or writing services thanks to the painful nature of getting out in public.Read More »
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.Read More »
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. .Read More »
Here are the posts from our blog that most resonated with our readers this year. Did your favorite make the list?Read More »
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?”Read More »
It’s time to burst your bubble. Sorry! The typical paperback novel is between 80,000 and 100,000 words long. Yes, you completed 50,000 words, and that’s an amazing achievement in 30 days. But 50,000 words does not a novel make.
The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it releases you from worrying about what you’re writing, trying to make it perfect, and instead you just focus on getting words down on the page. And that is a serious accomplishment: 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo hopefully taught you that when you’re not seeking perfection, you can get an amazing amount of words out instead of staring at a blank page.
So, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve likely got more work ahead on that novel of yours. Here's what you need to know...Read More »
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.Read More »
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.Read More »
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.Read More »
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