About Ali Cross

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So far Ali Cross has created 24 blog entries.

A Question of Balance

How do you develop as a writer? It requires a balance of study and practice.

As a new writer, I heard that the average writer took seven years to go from being a novice to professional. I wondered if I could speed up the process. So I set a goal to begin making money within one year. To that end, I began to study (taking classes in college, reading books, and reading the works of other authors) on a daily basis. I also set goals for writing—finishing short stories,

The Loneliness Problem

I often look for similarities in great stories to see what works. One aspect that I see very often is that powerful stories resolve “the loneliness problem.”

Normally, we are never told that our protagonist is lonely, but it’s there in the background: Scrooge is a miserly old man in a musty house. Harry Potter has no mother, father, or friends. Frodo lives all alone in his own aging mansion, and so on.

The loneliness problem can be solved in any number of ways:

The protagonist might find his or her true love. In heroic stories,

Bring Creative Solutions to Your Writing Career

Earlier this week I wrote about some new challenges facing Indie authors and suggested that one solution to them might be to look again at traditional publishing. But there are more solutions than that!

For example, have you ever considered creating a “Writers’ Ring”? A writers’ ring is a group of authors who generally like one another’s work well enough that they will promote each other’s projects. A few authors, say four to six, will put up their websites and promote their own work, but if a friend has a novel coming out, they’ll

New Struggles in Self-Publishing

I hesitate to mention problems with self-publishing. In some genres, such as romance or self-help books, the industry is doing great. But for those who are trying to sell fiction, it seems that the markets are contracting, and it appears that things will go from bad to worse.

If you’ve been self-publishing for the past few years, you probably remember the good old days. For example, a few years ago I put my novel The Golden Queen up as a free e-book for a week and forgot about it. I was going to mention

Be Double-Minded

The Apostle James warned that “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” For characters, being double-minded is a good thing.

A “double-minded” person has the quality of duality. That means that he is unstable, and the reader can never be quite sure what he will do under certain circumstances. Given this, the character’s choices might inspire the reader or dismay him. They might confirm the reader’s suspicions or shock him to the core.

Consider the following situation:

Beth’s eight-year-old daughter comes home from school crying and tells her, “My teacher touched me after school.”


Be Honest

A story needs to be honest. Now, that isn’t quite the same as saying that a story must be true. Obviously when we are writing fiction, we are basically telling lies in order to enlighten and entertain. So fiction stories aren’t true.

Yet in order for a story to work, there must be a good deal of truth in them.

At the lowest level, there must be some truth to my story just to assure my reader that I’m a credible narrator. If I were to set a story in London, and make the grand

Be Imaginative

Artist Zaria Forman, source: The Daily Mail

I judge stories for the world’s largest fantasy and science fiction writing contest. When I’m judging, the first thing that I look for is a great idea, a great concept. I search for something original.

The most common failure in a story is a failure of imagination. You may not realize it, but I see the same stories over and over again. I’ll get robots becoming human, or ghosts haunting a house, or people transferring memories from one mind to another or from a human to a

The Truth About Writer’s Block

Some authors never get “Writer’s Block,” and they don’t believe that it exists. They’ll blithely say, “Do doctors ever get ‘Doctor’s block,’ or do plumbers ever get ‘plumber’s block’?” and they think that they’ve just scored a point.

If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have told you much the same.

The truth is, doctors do get doctor’s block. Plumbers do get plumber’s block. It’s just that only writers have been smart enough to give the problem a name.

Think about it. Have you ever known someone who didn’t like their work environment,

Audience Analysis: Part One

As a new writer, you might not have given a great deal of thought to audience analysis. I’ve known good writers who don’t seem to understand it at all. For example, one #1 New York Times Bestselling fantasy author right now insists that he doesn’t write fantasy. He has magic in his stories, and dragons—but he insists that he is writing real literature. And he is right to suggest that he’s writing real literature. Just because a story has fantastic elements in it, doesn’t mean that it needs to be relegated to the

To Win Big, You Have to Enter the Race

Last week I got a note from a student who just had a novel accepted by a major publisher. He seemed a little surprised at how easily it had happened, as if he’d happened to enter a horse race and had just taken first place by accident.

But it’s no accident. I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about publishing and making money in this business as having an element of chance, as if writers who succeed are just lucky. I’ll grant you, it does seem to me that at times there is an

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