Articles about writing fiction
After a painstaking process of planning, writing, and editing your work, it’s time to consider publishing it. For most writers, this is the most exciting and fear-inspiring task (possibly a greater heart-stopping experience than editing alone). Your work will be on display for public consumption, and you want to ensure it’s the best work possible. If you’ve decided to join the ranks of the intrepid self-published authors, then you have one—and only one—person you can rely on: yourself.
Back before we tech-savvy geeky writers existed, self-publishing was considered vain and a bit silly, and your work wasn’t taken seriously. David Wong, with his novel, John Dies at the End, broke that stereotype of the self-published novelist, and here we are. Now, traditional publishers are nervous (and rightly so) due to the wonderful world of technology.Read More »
Scenes are the rising and falling action, and the soft moments in between, that move your story forward. They have a couple of basic purposes:
- They establish time and place. They give the reader a marker on where and when things are happening.
- They help develop character. Even if the scene is pure action, you learn about the character’s motivations by his or her decisions, choices, and actions.
- They let characters set goals. Without goals to achieve, characters have no reason to act or emote. Readers want to know what’s at stake.
- They allow the action to rise or fall. This movement is what carries your reader forward.
- They let you crank up the conflict. Without conflict, you won’t have tension. And without tension, your story is boring.
It’s the fear of every writer: writing a story your reader CAN put down. No writer wants to think their story is boring, but sometimes it is. Fortunately, there are only a few reasons stories are boring. Once you know what they are, you can make sure that your reader will keep reading.Read More »
The Chicago Manual of Style, putting dialogue in the middle of paragraphs depends on the context. As in the above example, if the dialogue is a natural continuation of the sentences that come before, it can be included in your paragraph. The major caveat is if someone new speaks after that, you start a new paragraph and indent it.
On the other hand, if the dialogue you’re writing departs from the sentences that come before it, you should start a new paragraph and indent the dialogue.Read More »
Similes can be found in all types of writing, from journalism to fiction to advertising. They’re creative ways to bring more attention and clarity to your meaning than straight narrative.
If you want to give your reader a thoughtful mental image while they’re reading, a simile is a great place to start. When you compare your main character to an animal or even an inanimate object like a giant sequoia, you’re exposing your reader to another way of looking at something that’s fresh and new.Read More »
If you’re old enough, you remember the days of pen and paper writing, or dragging out the typewriter or word processor to write your novel. Planning your novel typically involved a notebook (or ten) to outline your plot, structure, list of characters, list of places, and timelines. If those notebooks were lost, stolen, or worse, destroyed, all that original work was gone. Wiped out. Never to be seen again.
Luckily for all of us, with the advent of technology, we have one less headache when planning a novel and can avoid devastation should the worst happen. The savvy geek writer knows to use the wonderful world of the internet to plan out their novels.Read More »
Just like real life, your characters will have more than one thing demanding their time and attention. Romances, family life, work concerns, health issues, friendships, etc. These additional plot lines are subplots that give your story depth and help keep it moving.
And as with your main plot, all subplots should follow a narrative arc of conflict, crisis, and resolution, usually wrapped up before the main plot’s climax.
Subplots can be what’s happening to secondary characters or an internal conflict your main character is facing in addition to the main conflict of your story. The key to an effective subplot is how you work it into the main plot.Read More »
We know that ProWritingAid users like a bit of writing technology, so this month we begin a new series that looks at some of the best writing platforms out there. With so many options, and more being developed every day, how do you know which one is right for you. We sent one of our favourite freelancers, Kathy Edens, out to give them all a test run and report back.
This month, she looks at Ulysses. Scrivener, ILYS and The Novel Factory will also be reviewed over the next couple months.Read More »
The way I draft is an extension of the way I approach novel planning as a whole - which is to start with a simple concept and then add more and more detail until I have a fairly comprehensive outline.
With drafting that means starting with a rough outline and slowly fleshing it out and adding detail, tweaking and weaving until it is finished, polished prose. I try to approach each draft with different priorities in mind so I can focus on tackling particular elements of story-telling at each stage while setting aside other aspects for later so I don’t get bogged down trying to do too much at once.
In this article, I give details about the objective I assign to each draft, how I prepare for that draft (i.e. what I do in advance) and then the technique I use when actually writing it. I’ve also added a very rough guide to projected timescales and a bullet point summary of each stage.Read More »
The Enneagram details 9 internal levels of developmentwhere your main character can find him or herself at any point in time. A person’s personality isn’t static, meaning that it fluctuates depending on whether they are under duress or some good fortune happens. Each of these 9 levels of development represents a major paradigm shift in awareness, meaning your main character changes—for better or worse.
Have a look at the different levels and see if you can place your main character(s) at the beginning of your story and where you want them to be at the end.Read More »
We’re going to spend a little bit of time on plot this month—talking about what NOT to do.
Sometimes it’s hard to see plot problems while you’re writing and you don’t notice them until the end. This will send some writers into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Others will white-knuckle their way through half-hearted revisions.
Here are a few common plot pitfalls and what you can do to rectify them.Read More »
Plot is what happens to your main character (MC). Things happen and your MC has to deal with or resolve these issues: they receive a mysterious message, they come home to find their spouse in bed with someone else, their house burns down, etc. One thing happens, then another, then another, and each event leads your character further along your narrative arc toward the climax.
Plot is what gives us action. The narrative arc, working in tandem with the character arc, gives us the reaction.Read More »
The standard definition of a character arc is how your main character changes over the course of your story.
The most common form of character arc is the Hero’s Journey. An ordinary person receives a call to adventure and, at first, he or she refuses that call. There’s usually a mentor who helps the hero accept or learn how to attempt the adventure. Think of Yoda in Star Wars. But there’s more out there than just the good guy or gal who’s transformed by the end of the story. Not all characters undergo some major transformation. In some cases, they will grow, but not transform.Read More »
You’ve heard it before, most likely from a teacher, an editor, or your agent. But Anton Chekhov said it most eloquently:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
It may seem apparent when Chekhov says it, but sometimes it’s hard to put that advice into practice. There are times when your reader needs to be “told” because brevity is called for. On the other hand, no one wants to read your brain dump on every little matter.Read More »
Words are the raw fabric: weave, knit, or bonded leather. We cut and combine words into phrases, and the phrases are the pieces that you stitch to reach your goal of the narrative package.Read More »
Last month, we focused our articles on how to begin writing your novel in 2016, and we mentioned story arc in the article Start With Your Idea. In this month’s article, we’re going to delve a little deeper into creating your story arc.
The story arc (or sometimes called the narrative arc) is a more poetic way of saying that each story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end—or Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. This has been the guiding template of stories since the ancient Greeks started writing them, and holds true whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.
Where authors fall apart in their story arc is that nothing much happens to the main character by the end of the book. He hasn’t been tested in some profound way.Read More »
Your characters need a place for the story to unfold. It can’t happen in limbo. A movie or a play without a set and background would be hard to follow. It gives you the context in which the characters are placed in time and space and helps to connect your characters to your story.
Even if the world looks like your own, it’s still essential to build it for your reader. In many ways, the world functions similar to a character, especially for science fiction and fantasy. Think about a novel you’re currently reading. Can you picture his neighborhood or what his home looks like—majestic and imposing or squashed and run-down? Metropolitan, suburban or countryside? Do you have an image in your mind of her office, her car or her local bar? If you can visualise these things, the author has done a good job of setting up their world.Read More »
Search in Blog
- List of Cliches
- 10 Free Writing Apps and Tools
- 10 Websites to Help Improve Your Grammar
- 10 Writing Issues that Your Grammar Checker is Missing
- How to Break the Rules of Fiction
- 4 Writing Issues You are Probably Missing When You Self-Edit
- Inventing Characters: A Character is What He Does, His Motives, and His Past
- Why Writers Must Use the Toilet Paper Test on Professional Content Topics
- Oops! Did You Forget to Launch Your Book? 4 Marketing Steps to Take Right Now
- Belief, Emotional Involvement, Clarity: What Every Character Needs
- For a limited time: get a ProWritingAid and Outlining Your Novel software bundle.
- Writing App Reviews: the Outlining Your Novel Workbook
- The Essential Reading List: Historical Fiction
- "-isms": How to Cover a Controversial Topic with Sensitivity
- How to Write Historical Fiction (without a history degree)
- Where Has Your Day Gone? 7 Time Management Tools for Writers
- How to Improve Your Style with ProWritingAid's Writing Style Report
We love writing. ProWritingAid helps turn your writing into great writing. We publish articles about writing software, writing techniques and other useful information for writers. Subscribe to be notified of new articles.