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Friday, November 17

Plotting With Layers: 4 Steps to a Stronger Plot

plotting a stronger story
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

This week's Refresher Friday takes a heavily updated look at why plots are like houses, and how "building" with layers will help you create stronger plots. Enjoy!

Plots are like houses. When built on a strong foundation, with good flow and an well-thought out floor plan, readers want to move in and stay awhile. Just as we build in layers, we can also plot in layers. This helps us make sure all the right pieces are in place to hold up our story and allow our characters to live within them.

Layering your plot can create more interesting stories, but it's easy to go overboard and end up with a convoluted mess. How many layers are good? How many are too many? And mostly, how do you craft a well-constructed story that builds on itself and keeps readers interested?

I've talked about writing in layers before, and plotting in layers is similar. It helps to look at each layer individually and try not to build the whole thing at once.

Thursday, November 16

Why E-Book Piracy Matters

ebook piracy
By Jana Oliver, @crazyauthorgirl

Part of the Indie Authors Series

Opinions about e-book pirates are nearly as numerous as all those countless free downloads. Are they just thieves, or are they doing us a “favor” by downloading the free copies and (hopefully) spreading the word about our books? Are these really lost sales? Is piracy that big of a deal?

All those questions were circling in my brain when I read a recent blog post by author Maggie Stiefvater. Besides being a bestseller, Maggie is known to think outside the box. So, when the e-book sales of the third book in her immensely popular Raven Cycle declined—though her print sales remained unchanged—she felt something was fishy. Series sales numbers do decrease over time, but usually those lower numbers are evenly represented across all editions, not just the e-book.

Wednesday, November 15

The Impossible Choice: A Surefire Way to Hook Your Readers

impossible character choices
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The first job of any story is to hook its reader, but after that initial hook, the story can’t just slack off. It has to keep hooking, keep drawing readers in, and keep making them want to turn the page. An excellent tool for this job is the impossible choice.

A well-crafted story will have choices all the way through. Some will be small choices that subtly directly the plot or character arc, while others will have major repercussions on the story. It’s these choices and the reader’s interest in seeing how the tale unfolds that keeps them interested in the story.

But to really grab a reader, force your protagonist to make an impossible choice.

Tuesday, November 14

The Ultimate Guide to Character Motivation (Part 1)

character motivation
By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of the How They Do It Series (Contributing Author)

Do you know the real reasons why your characters do what they do? You should. Without a rock-solid motivation, your characters risk coming across as boring and flat. But if you can give your characters intriguing motivations, you can write a story that truly resonates with readers. That's because motivation is the engine that powers character-driven stories.

Plus, it's fun and easy to figure out what makes a character tick. In this two-part article, I'll show you how.

Monday, November 13

3 Ways to Boost Your Word Count Every Writing Session

boosting your word count
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Most of the writers I’ve met want to be more productive with their writing. They want to write more books, produce more words per writing session, and bring all those novel ideas they have to life.

I’m no different, but since I haven’t found an easy way to clone myself, I’ve had to settle for ways to boost my productivity the old fashioned way—becoming a more efficient writer and maximizing my writing time.

Boosting your word count is like getting in shape. It takes time, work, and the results improve over time.

Sunday, November 12

Writing Prompt: The Chain Story: The Holiday Approaches

writing prompt
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a chain story! I’ll give you the first line, and someone else comments and builds off that line. Next commenter will build off that line, and so on.

In the event of two commenters posting at the same time and sending the story in different directions, just pick the line you like best, or try to incorporate both if you can.

I like turkey as much as the next gal, but this was getting out of hand.

Let the fun begin.

Saturday, November 11

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This Have a Clear Middle Grade Voice?

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and I diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines.

Submissions currently in the queue: One 

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through November 18.

This week’s questions:

Is there a clear MG voice? Is the story "Show me" or "tell?" Can a MG book be about animal characters?

Market/Genre: Middle Grade

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, November 10

Are Your Characters Too Stupid To Live?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes an updated look at characters who are too stupid to live--and what we can do to smarten them up. Enjoy!

There's a popular TV show that I watched for several seasons, but finally had to stop. I tried to love it, wanted to love it, by all accounts should have loved it, but every time I watched it I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle every single one of the characters.

Because they were all too stupid to live.

Believe it or not, this is an actual literary term (no, really). It's a common trope that describes characters who act in ways no sane or reasonable person would act in the face of danger.

Thursday, November 9

Understanding Newsletter Ads

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Over the past few months, we’ve been talking about advertising our books because one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome as indie authors is discoverability. Readers can’t buy and enjoy our books unless they know they exist.

I know that talking numbers and marketing isn’t fun for a lot of writers, but I’m so glad you’re sticking with me. Successful indie authors are also successful business people.

Wednesday, November 8

If You Want to Succeed, Define What Success Means to You

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I’d guess most writers want to be successful, but there’s no single measurement for what success is for a writer. “Making it” doesn’t exist, because there’s always the next step, the next book, the next task.

I’ve been thinking about success a lot the last few months. Although I’ve published my own non-fiction since 2014, my fiction was traditionally published by a Big Five publisher (Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins), and I’m about to launch my first indie novel. I’ve published on both sides of the spectrum, and have what many writers would consider a successful career.