Writing Powerful Scenes, Part 2: Beginning with Character

Historically, a “scene” was a set on a play. It consisted of the setting in which a dramatic exchange took place. It’s not a coincidence that “scene” and “seen” sound exactly alike. But as novelists, we don’t necessarily have the same kinds of “scenes” that occur in a play. A scene could, for example, consist […]

Writing Powerful Scenes, Part 1

A story is made up of both large components, such as try/fail cycles and denouements, and small components, such as scenes and sentences. In order for your story to be strong, you need to write strong scenes. I’m in the process of taking a screenplay from outline to first draft, and so I’m a bit […]

How to Write and Raise the Stakes More Effectively

Writers are repeatedly advised to “raise the stakes.” Stakes are often defined as what the character has to lose. But when you understand—more accurately—the relationship between plot and stakes, you can create them more easily. And when you understand—more accurately—how they actually work, you can raise them by using the methods in this article. How […]

Finding Your Talent

Every writer has his or her own talents and strengths. Don’t give up on your writing. Very often as a writer, I will find myself reading a tale by another author and saying, “My, I wish that I had her talent.” I’m sure that most of you feel the same at times. I know that […]

3 Tips that Strengthen Middles

While writing the middle of a story usually isn’t as tricky as the beginning, for many authors, the middle can start to sag if they aren’t careful. Previously we went over three problems that come up with middles. Today we are back to add three tips to keep your middle interesting. 1. Vary Your Story […]

Want Strong Dialogue? Don’t Forget the Subtext

Realistic, evocative dialogue is an important part of any successful story. We need our characters’ interactions to be authentic, consistent, and engaging to draw readers into what’s happening. So when we’re learning to write, we spend a lot of time on mechanics—learning all the grammar and punctuation rules. But proper form is just the first […]

It’s Complicated

Accepting Responsibility for Your Titles

As your protagonist struggles to overcome a problem, in the past I’ve talked about how the protagonist goes through at least two try/fail cycles. Early in the story, in an inciting incident, the protagonist learns that he has a major problem on his hands. He then struggles to resolve the problem at least three times, […]

Gaming the Publishing Industry

n publishing, we have two different distribution systems. The traditional publishing industry has its editors, and they have contracts with the bookstores and with the book distribution companies that are designed to keep you from selling your books at bookstores—and these contracts are very effective.

Making Better Magic Systems, Lesson 1

making better magic systems lesson 1

The most popular books and movies of all time all have one thing in common: They transport audiences better than other books and movies in their genre. Usually, as in films like Avatar or books like Lord of the Rings or Dune, the tale transports you into another time and place. But the tale also transports its audience emotionally. In short, whatever emotion […]

Free Advice to Improve Writing

The main things to remember when asking yourself “How can I improve my writing skills?” are:
1. Remember, free writing advice comes from the heart.
2. But watch out for ignorant advice.
3) Beware of teachers who hold back vital information.
4) Even the greatest writers can be poor teachers.
5) When seeking wisdom, search widely. Test the advice.