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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Any accomplished writer is also a reader—and usually a reader first. For the writer who is the least a bit humble, this sets up one of the most significant psychological barriers to pursuing a writing career: How could I ever produce something as wonderful as [admired writer / admired book]? This is an area that Steven […]
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.
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.
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.
A round-up of the best and most popular advice on writing craft and technique I’ve featured since 2010.
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?
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.
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.
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
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 greatest tool for gaining reader confidence is internal dialogue—because when a character reveals his thoughts, he’s confiding in the audience.
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.”
Think in terms of “telling details”: details that let the reader see your characters while also revealing something about their minds.
A plot planner enables you to keep the larger picture of your story in full view as you concentrate on writing individual scenes.
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?
Thriller author Todd Moss discusses the pitfalls of using current events as the basis for a novel.
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.
Larry Brooks discusses how to create a concept for your novel that will compel readers (and agents and publishers) to read more.
In today’s guest post, author Maggie Kast (@tweenworlds) discusses the role research plays in the development and evolution of a historical novel.
Author Lisa Lenard-Cook explains when and how to use time shifts to heighten the emotional impact of your story.
Learn how to craft a strong novel synopsis, while avoiding the most common mistakes, including the dreaded “synopsis speak.”
Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld explain how to craft a compelling scene and when it’s okay to use summary.
Editor Jessi Rita Hoffman warns against the use of “stammer verbs,” words that cause an unnecessary halt in the scene.
Author Barbara Baig discusses word choice and how it affects tone, voice, and clarity.
If you want to write realistic dialogue, resist the temptation to follow a very logical “call and response” structure.
Blogger Tania Strauss of NY Book Editors discusses whether you should outline your novel before beginning to write.
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.
Do you have a project that confuses you, or feels dangerous? That’s what you should write says Mark Wisniewski.
Most novels have some amount of back story—because they rarely start from the beginning of a character’s life. However, writers tend to misuse it or include too much.
Fiction writer Rowena Macdonald says she finds writing dialogue much easier than constructing a plot.
The most prevalent point-of-view used by writers today is the third-person limited POV (sometimes spread across multiple characters), as well as the first-person POV. It’s pretty rare to find a contemporary novel written with an omniscient narrator—which is why Celeste Ng found it a terrifying realization, while writing her first novel, that her story required […]
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.
A reader is drawn into a story in one of two ways: shocked or seduced. This is called the hook, and it must be in the first three paragraphs of the text, preferably in the first sentence. The hook also sets up the initial pace of the story, which is maintained through the beginning of the tale.