story structure and plotting

Classic Story Structures and What They Teach Us About Novel Plotting

Turns out there is only one universal rule of plot, and it goes back to what Joseph Campbell uncovered: every single story worth telling is about transformation via trials.
developing ideas into stories

4 Methods for Developing Any Idea Into a Great Story

How do great authors develop stunning narratives, break from tradition, and advance the form of their fiction? They take whatever basic ideas they’ve got, then move them away from the typical.

The Most Common Entry-Level Mistake in the Writing Game

By far the most common entry-level mistake in the writing game, the thing that can get a perfectly good story rejected by an editor on the first page, is overwriting.
opening scene

The Importance of a Strong Opening Scene

No pressure, but the opening of your book is the gatekeeper in determining whether your novel will sell. If your opening is weak, it won’t matter if chapter two is a masterpiece. Editors and agents and booksellers and librarians and readers will stop reading before they get there.
how to write your memoir with lists

How to Write Your Memoir with Fun, Easy Lists

You need to write a memoir—except the mere thought floods you with anxiety. You’ve got decades of memories; where would you even start? Lists to the rescue!
How to Get Violence Right in Your Fiction

How to Get Violence Right in Your Fiction

For new writers, throwing in a few combat scenes can seem like an easy way to add some excitement to a novel, but the reality is that violence can be incredibly difficult to pull off effectively.
Ira Glass on taste

On Tastemakers and Making

Taste is not static. Rather than a fixed endpoint toward which one toils away, it's a target that moves over the course of a lifetime.
writing characters fiction

How to Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters

There is one secret ingredient to crafting a novel that readers will read from beginning to end. All the other elements are important and necessary, but they play supporting roles to this one.
The Value of Writing Retreats

The Value of Writing Retreats

Why must writers schedule time for residencies and retreats? Because in doing so, we honor an annual appointment with writer self-care.
starting line

Your Novel’s First Scene: How to Start Right

Every reader starts a story cold, and you want to warm the reader up to your story as quickly as possible. Learn proven techniques for story openings.
great story roundup

How to Write a Great Story: A Roundup of Best Advice

A round-up of the best and most popular advice on writing craft and technique I've featured since 2010.
magnetic attraction

How to Attract a Readership Based on Concept Alone

Ultimately, concept is far less important than character when it comes to determining the overall quality of your story, but your audience is attracted to your story based on your concept alone. Does your concept have what it takes to draw people in?
multiple viewpoints

Using Multiple Points of View: When and How Is It Most Effective?

Some stories require greater scope, more voices, or a different context than can be delivered through the eyes of one protagonist. When you find this to be the case, consider using multiple viewpoints. However, you must think about several factors before launching into this greater undertaking.
early experiences

What Early Experiences Inform Your Fiction?

Author Kurt Rheinheimer discusses how the most precious vein for material is from just before he knew who he was and what was going on.
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.
get that book done

Have Trouble Getting That Book Done? Try Doing Less.

There are countless ways to defeat ourselves, but the biggest and worst is to make the task too big and then feel daunted before we ever start
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.
A bird apparently singing full out

5 Ways to Develop Your Writer’s Voice

Author Jennifer Louden offers five tips for developing and strengthening your writer's voice.
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.
bad writing advice

5 Pieces of Writing Advice You Should Ignore

Novelist James Scott Bell identifies 5 common "rules" that writers would do best to ignore—such as "Don't start your story talking about the weather."
writing description

12 Tips for Improving Your Description

Think in terms of "telling details": details that let the reader see your characters while also revealing something about their minds.
When Writers Err Too Heavily on the Side of Drama and Conflict

When Writers Err Too Heavily on the Side of Drama and Conflict

Much of writing advice boils down to: add more conflict. But don't forget how happy lives can involve compromise and complication as well.
How to Use a Plot Planner

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 variety of pens by Maureen McLaughlin | via Flickr

Spellbinding Sentences: 3 Qualities of Masterful Word Choice

Author Barbara Baig discusses word choice and how it affects tone, voice, and clarity.
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.
Rowena Macdonalod

10 Tips on Writing Dialogue

Fiction writer Rowena Macdonald says she finds writing dialogue much easier than constructing a plot.
John Thornton Williams

How to Reveal Character Emotion Without Venturing Into Cliché

One of the most important goals of any fiction writer is getting the reader to connect on an emotional level
Beth Ann Fennelly

A Collaborative Novel Is Twice the Work, Not Half the Work

In an essay about writing a novel with her husband, Beth Ann Fennelly discusses that the process did not lead
Celeste Ng

The Challenges and Opportunities of an Omniscient POV

The most prevalent point-of-view used by writers today is the third-person limited POV (sometimes spread across multiple characters), as well
© Salim Photography/

The Power of Understatement in Fiction Writing

One of the most useful and powerful devices for the fiction writer is understatement. You tell the reader less so that the reader knows more. Instead of having everything spelt out, the reader is given, in a very careful way, just enough information for the imagination to go to work. From understatement the reader can derive great pleasure and satisfaction.
Color pencils isolated on white

How to Identify and Remove Trivial Detail From Your Stories

Writers are often advised to fill their scenes with rich detail—to show, not tell. However, taken too far, you can clutter or bloat your story with too much irrelevant description.
A photograph of several bookstore shelves loaded with books.

Why Editors Focus on Page One

Editors can tell within a couple pages if a manuscript will be acceptable to them. How? What makes this decision so clear to an editor and so muddy to an author?