All Writing Tips

How to Make a Million Dollars with Your Writing

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in IndieReCon, a free online writers' conference for self-published authors.

I did a Google Hangout with Ali (our first time ever, there was a steep learning curve!) and talked about my thoughts on how to write a bestselling novel that will make you a million dollars.

Now normally I would charge $29.95 for a lecture like this online, but this one is free for you. But while you're at my site, check out the other lectures I have—all on sale for

David Farland’s Writing Tips—3 Proving Questions for Big Ideas.

Over the years, I’ve seen a number of authors struggle with ideas for novels. Very often, those ideas mature into books, and sometimes they even become huge bestsellers. But how do you know if you’ve got an idea for a big book?

Last week, a young man presented an idea that would work just fine. He had a historical character that he was interested in writing about. The very idea gave him shivers. That’s important. You need to be excited enough to write the idea.

But it shouldn’t just give you shivers. You want ideas

David Farland’s Writing Tips: Who is this Story about, really?

When you create a story, perhaps the most monumental decision that you will make is the one regarding your protagonist. How many are there? What ages? Genders? Ethnicities? and so on.

The reason that this is important is that by choosing protagonists, you may be limiting your audience. A few years ago, a survey found that about 32% of men don’t like to read across gender, and 18% of women don’t. 

Similarly, studies have found that many children don’t like to read about “babies” who are younger than themselves.

In short, the reader is most

David Farland’s Writing Tips: Resonance in Settings

When you write a story, any story, you write within the context of the whole of literature, of everything that has gone before.  The choice of words that you use will provide little clues to the story that your readers will often absorb almost instantly as they read.  The reader might not consciously recognize an allusion to another major work, but it will happen subconsciously.


For example, if I put an allusion to the bible into a tale and my reader hasn’t read the bible, he or she might not recognize that allusion.  But

David Farland’s Writing Tips: Promises to Keep

As a teen, I once read a fantasy novel that had a picture on the cover that showed a wizard fighting with some lizard men. I read the novel, and liked it pretty well, except for one thing: the mage on the cover was too old, and there weren’t any lizard men. I kept thinking, “It must come at the end!”

But the scene never did take place. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of stock art. I didn’t know that publishers sometimes bought high-quality artwork at a bargain

David Farland’s Writing Tips: Beware of False Suspense

I have a saying, “There are ten thousand right ways to write any story, but there are a million wrong ways to do it.” I use this to point out that lots of things work, but new writers often don’t recognize that some things never work. So let’s talk about one.

“Suspense.” Suspense is a pleasurable state of excitement or anticipation that an audience feels when they engage in a story. Every story should engender some suspense, lest the audience wander away. What is suspense? It’s wondering if your hero will be tough enough

Writing Tip: Your Character’s Central Question

The script doctor Michael Hague has pointed out that for every successful motion picture, there is a central question that revolves around the protagonist: “Who are you?”  After studying this insight for twenty years, I’m convinced that Michael is right. You usually (because there are always exceptions) can’t write a powerful story of character without addressing this issue.

In other words, your protagonist often has people around him who define him.  Let’s take a romance story.  Perhaps your protagonist is young, from the “wrong side of the tracks.”  He’s poor white trash. His dad

Study with Integrity

Last week, a writer told me about how he had written a story several years ago that went on to win a Finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest. He then applied to a university to learn how to write, and his prose had gotten much richer and more powerful, but, increasingly, he no longer enjoyed writing, and couldn't stay motivated.

I’ve heard this story from dozens of writers, time and time again.

I had a similar problem with college writing courses. I had long been a fan of fantasy and science fiction, what

How to Start Off a Story

The first scene can be anything—a funny incident that introduces one of your protagonists, or perhaps an argument that leaves your reader shocked.  Maybe you'll write a scene that will leave your reader admiring your protagonist and cheering for her, or perhaps you'll introduce your tale with a gruesome murder that will leave the reader horrified but burning with intrigue. 

10 Tips for Bringing a Scene to Life (2020 update)

Years ago, I wrote an article on bringing a scene to life—and then I did an exercise based upon my own article. 

Here are the bare bones of that article. These are techniques and 10 "Tips for Bringing a Scene to Life"


1. Use "Resonators"

Especially at the beginning of a tale, use “resonators” to better tie into your audience's subconscious. 

A resonator is a word or image that gains power simply because your reader has seen it before. 


How to Start a Novel

When starting to write a novel, you should keep in mind: A good opening should promise the reader a powerful emotional impact if he or she reads on.

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