Articles about story planning

How to Write an Allegory Like George Orwell

by Kathy Edens Sep 18, 2017

How to Write an Allegory Like George Orwell

An allegory is a story that evokes two separate meanings. The first meaning is the story's surface, like characters and plot, the stuff that goes into every story. But at a much deeper level, an allegory has a symbolic, heavy meaning.

What allegories come to mind? Maybe The Lord of the Flies; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Moby Dick; or Pilgrim's Progress?

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Why a Fully Realized Villain is as Important as Your Protagonist

by Kathy Edens May 12, 2017

Why a Fully Realized Villain is as Important as Your Protagonist

Your antagonist can make the difference between a ho-hum novel and a break-out one.

A fully realized villain is someone who shows us parts of ourselves in his or her makeup. If you can connect in some human way with the antagonist, it's going to bring up all kinds of tension for readers.

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How to Write the ‘Other’ (Without Being a Jerk)

by Samia Rahman Apr 04, 2017

How to Write the ‘Other’ (Without Being a Jerk) It was during a Guardian webchat last year that one of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, offered no-nonsense words of advice to an aspiring writer that rather stopped me in my tracks. The commenter had asked how he, a middle-aged white man, should go about writing the story of a young Bengali girl, who belonged to a culture that he readily admitted was alien to his own. Chimamanda invited him to re-examine his motivation to write about something so unfamiliar and seemed to endorse the age-old adage that you should write what you know.

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How to use Active Reading to Become a Better Writer

by Jed Herne Mar 13, 2017

How to use Active Reading to Become a Better Writer

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!”).

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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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Where We Write… One Stop For Writers

by Kathy Edens Mar 06, 2017

Where We Write… 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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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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Where We Write… Write!

by Kathy Edens Feb 13, 2017

Where We Write… Write!

We’re obviously mad for technology at ProWritingAid, and there are so many apps, gadgets, and programs out there to help you finish your novel or write content for clients.

Here, in the sixth post of our Where We Write… series, Kathy Eden checks out minimalist writing platform Write!.

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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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What the Heck is a Word Cloud and Why Would I Use One?

by Lisa Lepki Dec 12, 2016

What the Heck is a Word Cloud and Why Would I Use One?

A word cloud is “an image composed of words used in a particular text or subject, in which the size of each word indicates its frequency or importance.”

So, the more often a specific words appears in your text, the bigger and bolder it appears in your word cloud.

ProWritingAid has a Word Cloud Gallery that makes it easy to create word clouds based on the text you paste into the tool.

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NaNoWriMo's Finished: What do I do Next?

by Kathy Edens Dec 12, 2016

NaNoWriMo's Finished: What do I do Next?

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...

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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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Top Resources for Writers to Boost Creativity

by Veronica Hunt Oct 05, 2016

Top Resources for Writers to Boost Creativity

Writing narrative essays, short stories and other creative texts is a meandering path. Creative writing skills do not appear out of nowhere, they require determination and effort. To master them, you need to work not only hard, but also smart.

Creativity is a tricky business. Your notebook is a great place to apply your inspiration, test your skills and boost your energy – or to fail. And this is how you evolve. Failures and mistakes provide valuable lessons. However, to progress faster and to make your creative juices flow better, we have collected some practical and useful resources that will improve your skills. Let’s get started.

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Six Tried and Tested Methods for Writing a Novel

by Kathy Edens Sep 20, 2016

Six Tried and Tested Methods for Writing a Novel

In this post, Kathy Edens introduces us to six of the most popular novel-writing methods out there: 1) The Snowflake Method, 2) The 30-Day Method, 3) The 5-Step Method, 4) The Write From The Middle Method, 5) The 5-Draft Method, 6) The Novel Factory Methods. The best method is the one that speaks to you. It’s the one that you’ll commit to and use to start writing your novel. But more importantly, it’s the one that will help see you through to the end.

Only you can decide what’s the best method for you because every writer is different with different needs and motivations. Choose what works best for you. Or experiment with different methods to find the one that helps you be your most productive ever.

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Triumphing at NaNoWriMo: How to Be Your Most Productive

by Kathy Edens Sep 20, 2016

Triumphing at NaNoWriMo: How to Be Your Most Productive

Write first. Proofread in December.

It’s all about getting the words down on the page (or the computer screen). We published an article a couple of months ago about ilys, an online platform that only allows you to see the last letter you typed on the screen. You can’t go back and edit—you can only keep typing until you’ve hit your word goal for the day. While this platform may take the “just write, don’t edit” rule further than many writers are comfortable with, the idea remains the same whether you are writing in word, Scrivener or with a quill and ink. Just write.

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Four Writing Myths and Why They Suck the Ink out of Writers

by Eric Roberts Sep 20, 2016

Four Writing Myths and Why They Suck the Ink out of Writers

Writing myths have been around as long as we’ve been writing—“real writers don’t get writer’s block”, “the tools maketh the story”, “writing is solitary”, and on and on—and they’re so common we often simply accept them as truth. But just how much weight do they really carry?

These are four of the most common writing myths. From tools to time to mindset, you might be surprised to find there’s less truth to them than you thought.

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Write What You Know? Think Bigger

by Kathy Edens Sep 07, 2016

Write What You Know? Think Bigger

When I decided I wanted to be a writer, the idea of “Write what you know” made me feel like a whole realm of literary possibility was off-limits to me. And yet, my own breadth of experience felt too small to contain a great story. I began to worry that my lack of experiences in life meant that I had nothing important to say. Seriously, who wants to read about my boring life?

I wish someone had explained that the concept of “Write what you know” is much bigger and more nuanced than that.

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Create Compelling & Evocative Scenes

by Kathy Edens Jul 13, 2016

Create Compelling & Evocative Scenes

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.

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