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.
inside outside mode

How to Produce an Emotional Response in Readers: Inner Mode, Outer Mode, and Other Mode

All three paths to producing emotional responses in readers are valid, but all three have pitfalls and can fail to work. To successfully use each, it’s necessary to understand why each is effective when it is.
5 On: Elizabeth Marro

5 On: Elizabeth Marro

Author Elizabeth Marro discusses literary vs. commercial fiction and what she learned from the sale and marketing of her first novel.
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.
when brevity is bad

When Brevity in Storytelling Is Bad

It's sometimes easier to cut a piece of writing if you can't see how to fix it. Just remove the offending bits, job done. But it can deaden a piece.
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.
internal dialogue

Internal Dialogue: The Greatest Tool for Gaining Reader Confidence

The greatest tool for gaining reader confidence is internal dialogue—because when a character reveals his thoughts, he’s confiding in the audience.
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."
Nesting dolls opened, revealing the smallest doll in the center

Writing Suspenseful Fiction: Reveal Answers Slowly

Award-winning author Jane K. Cleland explains how to implement the slow reveal to add suspense to your writing.
writing a love scene

How to Write a Great (and Not Schmaltzy) Love Scene

For a love scene to move readers, it must embody the principle of restraint—in dialogue, in description, and in the characters’ actions.
Gabe Herron

You Can’t Rush Your Development

A couple weeks ago, I advised young writers to have patience—with themselves, with the publishing process, and with their development.
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 scene from an illuminated manuscript of a man sitting down to feast.

The Fatal Flaw in Weak Descriptions

Author and editor Rachel Starr Thomson explains how to use descriptive detail to illuminate character and move plot forward.
Man taking photo of himself while others take photos of each other in the background

The Basics of Point of View for Fiction Writers

Writer Joseph Bates explains all the point-of-view options for your novel and how to choose the best point of view for your narrative.
a top-down view of a spiral staircase with red bannister

Crafting a Compelling Novel Concept

Larry Brooks discusses how to create a concept for your novel that will compel readers (and agents and publishers) to read more.
several old, handwritten letters in a loose stack

The Feel of Real: Researching a Novel

In today's guest post, author Maggie Kast (@tweenworlds) discusses the role research plays in the development and evolution of a historical novel.
Write Brain Workbook by Bonnie Neubauer

Strengthening Your Creativity Muscles: Q&A with Bonnie Neubauer

In this interview, Bonnie Neubauer, author of The Write-Brain Workbook discusses her own creativity practices and goals, her favorite means of gathering writing prompts, and myths about creativity.
Time Shift

How to Effectively Handle Time Shifts in Your Story

Author Lisa Lenard-Cook explains when and how to use time shifts to heighten the emotional impact of your story.
Several water drops hitting a pond surface, resulting in circular ripples

The Fundamentals of Writing a Scene

Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld explain how to craft a compelling scene and when it's okay to use summary.
A pink pencil with pink lead has a broken tip. By Hernán Piñera via Flickr.

2 Stammer Verbs to Avoid in Your Fiction

Editor Jessi Rita Hoffman warns against the use of "stammer verbs," words that cause an unnecessary halt in the scene.
novel concept

How to Build a Compelling Novel Concept (Something With a Kicker!)

Writers flounder trying to figure out how to make their idea compelling enough to sustain a great novel. Here's how to go from ordinary to extraordinary.