From Fiction University: Enabling third party cookies on your browser could help if you have trouble leaving a comment.

Wednesday, October 21

10 Signs of a Great Protagonist

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

At the heart of every story is a person with a problem, and the more compelling that person is, the better the story will be.

Imagine you’re having lunch one day when you overhear an animated group at a table, gossiping about a bunch of people with crazy lives. Some of them debate which hottie Jess should end up with, while others discuss the terrible behavior of Selene, and not one of them can agree on what Alastair is really up to.

You lean closer, curious about this wild group, and soon realize they’re not talking about life on the cul de sac, but their favorite novel—or more specifically—their favorite characters.

If you’re a writer (or a reader), discussing fictional people as if they really existed is normal. For writers, it’s even encouraged.

Tuesday, October 20

Taylor Swift’s Lyrical Storytelling Provides a Perfect Revision Checklist

By Sarah Skilton, @Sarah_Skilton


Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Great writing advice can come from the unlikeliest of places--including song lyrics. Sarah Skilton shares how studying Taylor Swift lyrics can teach a writer a lot about good writing. 

Like Taylor Swift, Sarah Skilton is a genre-hopper! That is where all similarities end! Sarah is the author of two critically acclaimed young adult novels, Bruised and High & Dry, and was a 2018 Edgar awards judge. For adults, she's written a murder mystery, Club Deception, set in a fictional underground magic club; and a romantic comedy, Fame Adjacent, about a former child star on a mission to confront her famous castmates at a 25th reunion show. Writing with Sarvenaz Tash, she is the co-author of Ghosting: A Love Story, which was published in seven countries and six different languages, and which Kirkus called, "An energetic romance that would make Nora Ephron proud."

Sarah’s first novella, “Mind Games,” will appear in the 2021 rom-com anthology Summer in the City, alongside authors Lori Wilde and Priscilla Oliveras. There’s nothing like summer in Manhattan. The days are long and the nights are even longer. But when the lights go out on the city, fireworks explode...! Pre-order Summer in the City.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Sarah…

Monday, October 19

An Easy Way to Find Your Protagonist’s Goal

finding goals, plotting with goals, protagonist
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

If you have a great premise, but can’t figure out the protagonist’s goal to go with it, this little tip can help.

Every week, I get at least one message from a writer along the lines of, “This post is exactly what I needed today.” It always makes my day, and it’s the reason I tweet and post from the blog’s archives. There’s a ton of information on this site, and I never know who is going to need what when.

This past week, it was me.

I was doing my initial brainstorming for a new series, and I ran into a problem. I had no idea what the protagonist in book two wanted. Until I figured that out, I had no plot and no conflict. Utterly stuck, I set the notes aside and went to work on my blog posts for the week.

And I solved my own problem with my own post—and I hadn’t even written it yet.

Saturday, October 17

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at Setting the Scene in a YA Dystopian Romance

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

WIP 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 we 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 WIP Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines

Submissions currently in the queue: Four

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through November 14.

This week’s question:

Does the scene introduces the MC and environment well enough?

Market/Genre: YA Dystopian Romance

On to the diagnosis…

Wednesday, October 14

The Reason Readers Didn’t Care About Your Protagonist (and 4 Tips on Making Them Care)

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy


What happens when a great plot meets a character readers don’t care about?

I’m a huge fan of stories in all formats, from books, to movies, to TV shows and even games. But movies are particularly useful when talking about fiction. They condense a story into 90 minutes (more or less), and are more accessible than a novel that will take hours to read.

One great example is how a pair of similar movies showed how important a strong character arc is to a character-driven story.

So Undercover is basically Miss Congeniality with sorority girls, and the concept is so similar the weaknesses of one (and why) stood out like a palm tree at the North Pole.

So Undercover is about...

Tuesday, October 13

Get Ready to Write a Scene in 10 Minutes

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton


Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: Some days, the hardest part of writing is knowing what to write. Laurence MacNaughton shares tips on planning a scene in just ten minutes.

For some writers, the blank page is terrifying. I know, because I used to feel that way, too. But now, every time I sit down to write a chapter, I'm confident about what I'm going to write, and I'm usually charged up. 

Really, it only takes ten minutes to get ready to write a scene. All you have to do is answer these questions.

1. What does the character need to achieve in this scene, and why?


Your answer should be a short sentence that looks something like this:

Monday, October 12

The Difference Between a First Page that Hooks and a Novel that Hooks

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy


Do you really need to hook a reader on the first page?

I read a lot of first pages. Between the Saturday critique submissions, clients, friends, and other random critiques I do, I’ve read the first pages of hundreds and hundreds of works-in-progress. Add in the first pages from published novels and it skyrockets into the thousands.

This past Saturday, I had a submission that sparked an interesting thought—does the first page need to hook if the novel’s premise hooks?

And that’s a really loaded question.

I also think it’s compounded by e-readers, because it used to be you had cover copy, and knew what the book was about before you started it. These days, you don’t always get the cover copy before you start reading. Usually the first time you open the book, a window pops up with the blurb and information, but after that, it goes right to the text (at least this has been my experience—your e-reader may vary).

Saturday, October 10

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at a YA Dystopian First Page

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

WIP 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 we 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 WIP Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines. 

Submissions currently in the queue: Three

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are booked through October 31.

This week’s questions:

1. Is Madison (protagonist) likable?

2. Does this hook the audience?

3. Am I overwriting for YA?

Market/Genre: YA Dystopian

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, October 9

Does Your Novel Just…Stop? What Makes a Good Ending

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Your novel’s ending will have more impact than everything that came before it.

Some writers have troubles with beginnings, or more commonly, middles, but for me, it’s always been endings.

I tend to rush them once I reach the book’s climax, and summarize what happens instead of dramatizing scenes to the big finish. I always have to rewrite those last three or four chapters several times before I get them right.

There are two reasons for this—impatience and story fatigue.

When I develop a novel, I reach a point where I’m tired of planning and want to move onto the writing. And that typically happens before I’ve fully fleshed out my ending, so I only know a general sense of what happens. And when I’m drafting it, I hit another wall of fatigue, where I’m so ready for it to be over and I can start revising. Then I rush past the ending I didn’t develop enough in the first place.

Thursday, October 8

How Writing with Constraints Can Boost Your Writing Skills

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward


Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into getting better as a writer. Sherry Howard shares a trick to improve your writing skills.

Sherry Howard lives with her children and silly dogs in Middletown, Kentucky. Sherry is the author of the picture book ROCK AND ROLL WOODS, with a starred Kirkus review. Her poems and stories have appeared in multiple journals and anthologies. She also writes for the educational market, with about a dozen books. Her middle grade book, SPIRITS AMONG US, releases in October.

Sherry Howard | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Sherry...