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What’s in a Word?

In the writing profession, the term word has a special meaning that most new writers don’t understand. If you see the word I and the word anaphylactic on paper, they’re both words, right? Each is one word. But not if you’re a professional writer. Years ago, when typesetters were trying to figure out how long

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Micro-plotting

Most of you are familiar with plot charts. You’ve heard of terms like inciting incident, try/fail cycles, climax, and denouement. (If you aren’t familiar with those terms, you might want to look at my book Million Dollar Outlines.) Since the days of Aristotle, folks have been trying to understand how plots work, and depending upon

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Winning the Writing Race

How fast do you write? Why? Have you ever asked yourself this? Many writers feel bad because they are too slow, but how fast you write depends on a number of factors. For example, a part of your speed of composition depends on something as mechanical as typing speed. I know some “hunt-and-peck” writers who

Writing the All-time Bestselling Novel

Years ago while I was writing some little Star Wars books for Scholastic, my editor, David Levithan called and said that his boss loved my work, so she wanted to know if I would be willing to look at some novels and help them pick a book to push big during the coming year. I

Finding the Guts to Write

For many authors, our fear of failure dissuades us from writing. I believe that this is the source of most “writer’s block.”  An author is unsure how to compose an upcoming scene, or needs a little brainstorm time to think about a character, or is just filled with nagging worries about his or her own

Grounding Your Reader

One reader asked me to discuss a bit about what I call “grounding” the reader. Quite simply, grounding is the fine art of letting the reader know what is going on. You need to focus on some basics: Who is in a scene? Where does it take place? What is the major conflict? Those questions

Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention

A while ago I promised to tell you why I reject good stories when I’m reading for Writers of the Future. So let’s talk about those stories that get an Honorable Mention. Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on

Time-wasting Techniques for Writers

Let’s face it, many writers actually avoid writing. In fact, I know lots of writers who have given up completely, but they all seem to do it in different ways. Some writers stop writing by “courting the muse.” They may wander to foreign countries while spending years researching a novel, or take long nature walks

Where is Your Story?

Here is a question from a fellow writer: “Writing is hard, even when you sit down with a good plan based on good advice. An infant story can go anywhere with just a few keystroke decisions. So my question is, how do I find the one story that tells itself? I've got my interesting character,

You’re Going to Get Hacked!

As a new writer, you may not be able to imagine why anyone would want to hack you. After all, you’re a small-fry, a one-person business. But as your fan base grows and you gain more notoriety, you will attract the attention of hackers. It’s in the news a lot lately. Just over the weekend,