Monday, March 27, 2023

How to Make Backstory Work for You

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

A character's history is important, but not enough to bog down your entire story to hear it.

Along with adverbs and telling, I think backstory completes the unholy trinity of writing. So much so that agent and writing guru Donald Maass advises writers to cut any backstory in the first 50 pages.

But backstory does have its uses, and sometimes, it's critical to know that history.

Even if it's not critical for the reader to know it.

In some genres it's more of an issue. Fantasy, science fiction, historical—any genre where the past and the history of that past strongly affects the current plot and the motivations of the characters. Doubly so if the antagonist is the one with the past that's come back to haunt someone, since you don't always see the antagonist's POV.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

How to Write a Short Story Spin-Off from Your Novel

By Rayne Hall, @RayneHall

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series

JH: Short stories can be a fantastic marketing tool for your novel. Rayne Hall shows you how to use your novels to create short story spin-offs.

Do you want to create short stories as spin-offs from your novel? This can be a great marketing strategy. When readers who discover your short story on your website or in an anthology and love it, they will look for more fiction by this author. This can strengthen your reputation as an author and boost your novel's sales. 

Can you use the novel's main character for spin-off stories?

Monday, March 13, 2023

What is “Bad Writing?” (And How Can We Avoid It?)

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

"Bad writing" means different things to different readers.

We writers notice bad writing far more easily than readers, because we know the rules. For us, the writing is critical, but for a reader, it’s more about the story.

Readers don’t care how the sausage is made as long as it tastes good. And “good” is very subjective.

No matter what genre you write, I bet you can name a few huge, mega-bestsellers you feel are badly written. Every genre has them. And they drive us crazy as writers because “writers must write well” is drilled into our heads by everyone in the writing and publishing industry.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

How to Find Your Character's Voice

By Janice Hardy

Finding the right voice for a character can be tough, especially if you’re not sure who that character is yet.

Although a lot of people talk about author voice in fiction, character voice is just as important. It’s also harder, because you only one author voice (usually), but you need multiple character voices in every book you write.

That means knowing the personalities, hopes and dreams, fears and worries, of multiple people, as well as knowing what they’d say or think in any given situation. That’s a lot to figure out.

Luckily, the more you know about a character, the easier it will be to write them. And not just them, the entire novel, too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The 5 Turning Points of a Character Arc

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

The character arc is a strong tool for adding an emotional layer to a story.

For most novels, the character arc is a critical part of the tale. It’s the emotional layer that makes readers care about all the cool plots and exciting scenes we put before them. Readers enjoy seeing how a character grows, and how they handle the emotional trials of the story.

Just like a plot, the character arc has several turning points that fall at specific structural moments throughout the novel. There’s wiggle room as to where, but they generally fall along the same path as the plot, since the plot is what triggers or impacts these moments.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

How to Find Your Readers

By Jenna Harte

Part of The Indie Author Series

JH: It's hard to sell a book if you don't know who you're selling it to. Jenna Harte shares tips on identifying and then finding your reading audience.

I wrote an article for Fiction University on Selling More Books with Marketing Mind Shift in which I suggested authors think less about selling a single book through a Tweet, and instead about building a community of avid readers. The article explained how to do that, with one exception; how do you find your audience? This piece is a follow up to that article to provide tips and resources on finding your readers and creating a community for them.

Monday, February 13, 2023

There is No Bad Guy: What to do When Your Antagonist Isn't a Villain

By Janice Hardy. @Janice_Hardy 

All stories need an antagonist, but not all stories have a villain. 

The word antagonist usually conjures an image of a "bad guy," but that's not always the case. The antagonist in a story is simply the opposition to whatever the protagonist is trying to accomplish. 

A mother trying her best to stop a willful child from going down a destructive path is the antagonist to that child, same as a terrible storm is an antagonist to a hiker trying to reach safety on a mountain. 

An antagonist can come from any of the four basic conflict types, and they each focus on a different type of conflict opposition. We've discussed the person vs. self antagonists, and person vs. nature conflicts, so let's continue with the person vs. society conflicts.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Move Along: Fixing Pacing Problems

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy 

A badly paced novel can ruin an otherwise strong story.

Pacing problems fall into two categories: too slow or too fast. While this makes it easy to diagnose the trouble, it takes a bit more to solve the actual problem. Too slow can be an editing issue, a stakes issue, or even a structure issue. Too fast can be a plotting problem, a characterization problem, or yes, a structure problem.

If your pacing isn’t where you want it to be, first identify what the problem is.

Is your pacing too slow? 

While any number of things can contribute to a slow pace, "too much of something" is usually the culprit. Maybe it has too many long sentences, or it's heavy exposition, or characters give too many speeches. A reader has to slug through "a lot of something" to get to the actual story.

Monday, January 30, 2023

5 Ways to Raise the Stakes in Your Scene

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The worse things get for your character, the better it is for your reader.

I love doing terrible things to my characters. I’m a firm believer that whatever doesn’t kill them makes them more interesting. But even I sometimes forget to raise the stakes—or even have stakes—in a scene.

I get distracted by the plot, or a world building detail that needs to fit in somehow, or I get caught up in a fun conversation between characters and lose myself in their banter. Anything could cause me to forget to add the stakes, because there’s so much that goes into every scene, it’s easy to miss an important element.

But when that element is a core part of keeping readers hooked in the story, it risks ruining a perfectly good scene.

Monday, January 23, 2023

How a Sequel Works with a Scene

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Sequels are the emotional glue holding scenes together.

Before I dive it, I’m over at The Insecure Writer’s Support Group today, chatting about the dangers of empty dialogue. Come on over and check it out!

Now, on to today’s regularly scheduled post…

The sequel trips up a lot of writers, even when they know what it is. The most common problem is thinking it has the same nature (and structure) as a scene, so they try to write it as one.

And it fails.

The pacing flatlines, there’s no goal, and often, writers twist themselves into knots trying to add a goal, motivation, and conflict to a sequel, trying to “make it work.”