Image: a pair of cufflinks with question marks on them.

The Complete Guide to Query Letters

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 piece that it's quite possible to write one without having written a word of the manuscript. All it requires is a firm grasp of your story premise.
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 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.
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.
abandon draft

You Don’t Have to Finish Every Story You Start

Sometimes that first draft is never going to become a final draft. That doesn't mean it's a waste, though.
map and pins

Suffering From Writer Envy? There’s a Map Only You Can Make

Any accomplished writer is also a reader—and usually a reader first. For the writer who is the least a bit
Kindle Press

How Kindle Press Made My Novel a Bestseller

In 2015, Kindle Press published about 90 novels. By the end of 2016, it had published a total of 218 books—all chosen through the Kindle Scout program.
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.
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.
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.
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."
A photograph of several bookstore shelves loaded with books.

What’s Your Genre? A High-Level Overview for Writers

Learn how to determine what genre you're writing in and why it matters—plus the difference between commercial and literary.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Mizner

Writing Fiction: Does It Feel Indulgent?

In the literary fiction world, it's often taken as an article of faith that writing is an intrinsically important activity to be engaged in. Is it?
Newspaper title lines ripped from the newspaper

A Warning About Writing Novels That Ride the News Cycle

Thriller author Todd Moss discusses the pitfalls of using current events as the basis for a novel.
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.
Writing Advice for Children and Teens

Writing Advice for Children and Teens

What young people need to know about writing and publishing.
An image of a Central Indian tribal figuring of a woman reclining and reading a book.

How to Find and Work with Beta Readers to Improve Your Book

Editor and writing coach Kristen Kieffer discusses how to get the best out of a beta-reader experience.
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.
Anthony DeCasper

What Does It Mean to Read Like a Writer?

Learn what it means to see and read the world in terms of narrative design.
Melanie Bishop

The Sussman Productivity Method

For every 45 minutes that you write, do 15 minutes of something else. But there's one catch.
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.
Conquering the Myths of the Writing Life

Conquering the Myths of the Writing Life

Fiction writer Douglas W. Millikin offers an honest and insightful essay about the biggest myths writers face about their profession.
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.
Jerry B. Jenkins

Join Me for a Free 1-Hour Class on the Secrets of Storytelling

In a free one-hour class, New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins will reveal the common plot mistakes he sees writers make, as well as his own personal storytelling tips—solutions that changed everything for him once he discovered them.
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.
author business

5 Observations on the Evolution of Author Business Models

As publishing becomes increasingly digital-driven, how are the business models for authorship changing?
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.
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.
Close-up of feet on a tightrope

Balancing Dialogue and Description in Your Story

Alex Limberg discusses attaining the perfect balance between dialogue and description in your fiction.
Samsun Knight

What It Means to Write Realistic Dialogue

If you want to write realistic dialogue, resist the temptation to follow a very logical "call and response" structure.
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 pen and pencil inside journal by rafaelsoares, via Flickr

To Outline or Not to Outline Your Novel

Blogger Tania Strauss of NY Book Editors discusses whether you should outline your novel before beginning to write.
How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula

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.