About Writing

On Pacing: Don’t Do Dead-end Dialogue

Making sure your characters’ language makes an impact Imagine an agent looking for the next big thing. She sits down with her coffee and red pen and flips open a fresh manuscript to the following interaction: The phone rang. “Hello,” answered Don. “Hi, is Mark there?” said a voice. “Sure, who’s calling?” “This is Sam,” […]

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Brand-Name-Dropping in Fiction

Novelists are often counseled to be specific with details, choosing one or two arresting ones to give a strong sense of a person, place, or thing. These focused items, often dubbed “salient details,” can powerfully and succinctly convey information better than the dreaded “info dump,” which tells too much and invites readers to skim. This is […]

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The Novel As Art — Is It Good Enough?

More artist angst is caused by this question than any other: Is it good enough? This question is unanswerable because it’s incomplete. The true question is, Is it good enough [for what]? For novelists that usually means, Is it good enough for publication? Even that is unanswerable, because “for publication” can mean many things, and […]

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On Pacing: Avoid TMI in Plot

Keep your story moving by recognizing when too much information (TMI) is weighing down the action. Consider this first paragraph of a hypothetical novel: Johnny woke up in the hotel bed. His grandparents Merv and Jude were going to be buried today. They died in a tragic helicopter accident while on vacation. They always traveled […]

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Fiction Writing — Character Profiles

Three-dimensional protagonists are de rigueur in genre fiction. Building a character profile is a sure-fire way to work towards this goal. Imagine sitting across a desk from this individual; taking a walk on the beach or an evening stroll through town.

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What’s Wrong With My Story?

What’s Wrong With My Story?

You just can't quite put your finger on it. Something's not right about your picture book text. You've written and rewritten, revised and tweaked. You have fabulous, well-rounded characters, the language sings, and the hilarious gags only underline the importance and...

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Tips for Writing a Memoir

Tips for Writing a Memoir

Writing my memoir Memoir is one of the most popular genres among first-time writers. What story does one know more intimately than one's own life? Still, writers who tackle memoirs often do so on the mistaken assumption that such a text might be straightforward and...

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Building the Dream World

Getting the Details of Your Dream World Story Right An early dream world we witness in the movie Inception flops because its architect failed to get the carpet right; when the dreamer is pushed to the floor, his cheek touches the carpet and his attention is then locked on the difference between it and the […]

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How to Write Character-Driven Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Part 2

In my previous article, I introduced the idea of the character-driven vs. the plot-driven story, arguing that if the plot drives the story, that’s tantamount to the writer driving the story. And if the writer is driving the story, that means the characters aren’t. As a result, such stories feel flat, cold, and unconvincing. As […]

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