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Saturday, March 06, 2021

WIP Diagnostic: Is This Working? A Closer Look at an SF Short Story Opening

Critique by Maria D'Marco

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: Zero

Please Note: As of today, critique slots are open.

This week’s questions:

I'm wondering about the voice of the narrator. Is it funny, hokey, overdone, stupid? In short, does it work? There's some spots where the narrator is telling rather than showing, but in 1st person, it often seems more realistic to 'just say it.' Do you agree? And the practical stuff: Do you want to read the rest of the story? Would you want to read more stories told by this narrator? Did it make you start to chuckle?

Market/Genre: Science Fiction Short Story

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, March 05, 2021

Story Structure: How the Midpoint Reversal Works in a Novel

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The midpoint reversal is the glue that holds the first and second halves of the novel together.

Like many writers, I used to hate middles. My novels always bogged down halfway through, the plot hit a wall, or I realized it had gone so far off track I was writing a different novel. I can’t tell you how many times I just chucked the whole draft and started over.

Until I discovered the midpoint reversal, and it changed my writing life.

After that, middles weren’t a problem anymore, and plotting became a whole lot easier. I didn’t bog down or fizzle out, and I always knew where my plot was headed.

A strong midpoint reversal just flat out makes a novel easier to write.


Thursday, March 04, 2021

Tips on Writing "The Boring Stuff" Readers Tend to Skip

By Jenna Harte

Part of The How They Do It Series

JH: Readers skim when they read, especially if nothing is really going on in the story. Jenna Harte shares tips on keeping readers engaged in your novel.

Jenna Harte is a die-hard romantic writing about characters who are passionate about and committed to each other, and frequently getting into trouble. She is the author of the Valentine Mysteries, the first of which, Deadly Valentine, reached the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. She has a contemporary romance series, Southern Heat, and a cozy mystery series, Sophie Parker Coupon Mystery Series

Romance authors can join her free writing community for support, accountability and more at WritewithHarte. Jenna loves talking to anyone and everyone about romance fiction. You can join her free romance fiction reader community, SwoonworthyHEA to talk romance with other readers.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

6 Places Infodumps Like to Hide in Your Novel

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Not everything you know about your story belongs in your novel.

A quick heads up...I'm over at Writers in the Storm today asking, Does Your Novel Have a Problem? 

People tend to think infodumps are the bane of science fiction and fantasy writers, but they happen to everyone. Mystery writers dump how and why characters wound up in places they shouldn’t be in, romance writers share the tragic backstories of the love interests, historical writers elaborate on the history (though their readers probably enjoy their infodumps), and mainstream writers share way too much information about the people and places in their story.

We all do it, and I actually don’t mind infodumps on a first draft. It’s a useful way to get the history and backgrounds straight in my head as I write, but they’ve got to go during draft two.

Infodumps pull readers out of the story to explain something in the story.


Tuesday, March 02, 2021

It’s About Time. Make the Most of the 24 Hours We All Get

By Shanna Swendson, @ShannaSwendson


Part of The Writer’s Life Series 


JH: Managing time is one of the more difficult things about being a writer. Shanna Swendson shares tips on how to keep writing, and how to stop the things that distract you from writing.  

Shanna Swendson earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas but decided it was more fun to make up the people she wrote about and became a novelist. She’s written a number of fantasy novels for teens and adults, including the Enchanted, Inc. series and the Rebel Mechanics series. She devotes her spare time to reading, knitting, and music. Her newest novel is the paranormal mystery Interview with a Dead Editor

Website | Twitter Facebook | Goodreads

Take it away Shanna…

Monday, March 01, 2021

A Core Question for Getting to Know Your Character

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Even if you do little to no character development before you start writing, asking this one question can pinpoint the core of who that character is.

Since I write science fiction and fantasy, those character templates with tons of questions never worked for me. They’re always rooted in the real world and I spent too much time trying to figure out if “god-appointed assassin” was their employment, religion, or maybe even a calling.

I can see the appeal of such a questionnaire, but I tend to be a minimalist when creating characters. I like to learn who they are by tossing them into the plot and seeing what they do. But it helps to have a starting point for those characters, otherwise they develop willy nilly and feel completely inconsistent and at odds with themselves. They make decisions based on plot (what I want) and not what they want.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Story Structure: How the Act Two Choice Works in a Novel

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

The act two choice is a pivotal moment in your novel, and the wrong choice could send your middle in the wrong direction.

It’s far too easy to know what happens at the end of act one and just plow on forward into act two without really thinking about how the protagonist got there. Did they choose it, or were they dragged along?

Most writing advice and structures combine the act one problem (whatever name it’s called, as it has several) and the act two choice, but I find it more helpful to think of them as two separate moments. This is the first major plot point where the protagonist needs to choose to move forward. So it seems only logical to pay attention to what that choice is.

If there’s no choice being made, that’s a red flag the protagonist might be reactive or have no agency to act. Without that clear goal, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get stuck within a few chapters, because you don’t know what the protagonist is trying to do. You might know generally, or know where the plot is supposed to go, but without that act-one-to-act-two-goal-handoff, the narrative drive often stalls, because the act two choice is the transitional moment linking the beginning and the middle.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Revision Tips for Pantsers: 3 Steps to a Full Rewrite

By Orly Konig, @OrlyKonig

Part of The How They Do It Series


JH: Having to revise on a tight deadline can give any writer nightmares, but sometimes we have a lot to do in little time. Orly Konig shares tips on how she managed a full rewrite in just five weeks
as a pantser. 

Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around her cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She’s a book coach and author of The Distance Home and Carousel Beach.

Website Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram | BookBub | Goodreads

Take it away Orly…

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Tips to Understand and Control Your Novel’s Pacing

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

In some ways, pacing is more critical to a novel than plot.

My husband isn't a kidlit reader, and when he read my novel The Shifter for the first time, he said,

"Wow, you do stuff in three pages that would take an adult book three chapters."

An exaggeration, but there's truth in there. MG/YA is typically faster paced than adult work, because kids won't put up with something that drags. If you can't grab and hold their attention, you're a goner.

Pacing is one way to keep that attention.

A well-paced novel keeps readers engaged—and reading.


This is one reason why “bad books” still make the bestseller lists. A good story matched with solid pacing pulls readers through the novel even if the writing is so-so. There’s always something to learn or discover and rarely—if ever—and urge to skim.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

5 Tips on Writing a Short Story

By Rachelle Shaw

Part of the Focus on Short Fiction Series


JH: Short stories give us opportunities to explore new ideas without committing to months and month of work. Rachelle Shaw shares answers a few short story questions, and shares five tips on how to write them.


Whether you’re new to writing or already have several books under your belt, short stories are a fabulous go-to, especially for the time-crunched writer. They allow you to get your words in while providing additional insight into your writing style, the minds of your characters, and underlying themes. They can be tricky to get right—requiring practice and polishing—but with patience and the right tools, shorts can become a cornerstone to upping your writing game.