keys to great writing

A Key to Great Writing: Make Every Word Count

If I could teach only one key to great writing, it would be this: Make every word count. Recognize the power of a single, well-chosen word. Trust it to do its work. As a rule, the more economically you use language, the more powerfully you will deliver your message.

believable chain of events

Building a Believable Chain of Events in Your Novel

Every action in your novel should be justified by the intersection of setting, context, pursuit, and characterization. They all need to make sense. They all need to fit. If you have to explain why something just happened, you’re telling the story backward.

The Complete Guide to Query Letters

This post was originally published in 2014; it is regularly updated with new information. If you’re seeking one-on-one help with queries, I offer a critique service. The query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query letter is so much of a sales […]

Deliberate practice

If You Just Keep Writing, Will You Get Better?

Author and writing expert Barbara Baig discusses the lessons about deliberate practice that writers might take away from Anders Ericsson’s book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.

How to Use a Plot Planner

A plot planner enables you to keep the larger picture of your story in full view as you concentrate on writing individual scenes.

A time-lapse photo of peopl milling about an interior with stairs and an escalator.

How Writers Can Craft an Effective Setting

Setting is often an afterthought when writing a scene, but it can affect characterization, tension, pacing—and more. Bestselling author Mary Buckham shows how to create effective descriptions for any type of narrative.

A portrait of Heather Hale with the quote: "Some writing is therapy. And probably doesn't ever need to be read by anyone but you."

5 On: Heather Hale

Heather Hale discusses the top five mistakes screenwriters make, the usefulness of online script databases, and how to approach a first screenwriting contract.

how to write a novel synopsis

How to Write a Novel Synopsis

Learn how to craft a strong novel synopsis, while avoiding the most common mistakes, including the dreaded “synopsis speak.”

Danger of writing groups

The 4 Hidden Dangers of Writing Groups

Writing groups can cause fatal frustration, deep self-doubt, and sometimes years of wasted effort. Learn the most common dangers of writing groups, and find out how to improve your group to give you more of what you need—and less of what you don’t.

Image of colorful typewriter by Ralph Aichinger / via Flickr

Begin Your Novel with Action: A Good Rule?

You’ve probably heard the adage that you must begin your novel with action—even if it’s not the main action of the book. While this rule is fairly well-accepted in fiction teaching circles, not everyone agrees with it.

How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula

When we talk about plot as separate from the characters, the symbols, the locales, the dialogue, and the philosophical introspection, what we are doing is privileging events over everything else. But nothing exists in a vacuum.