Monday, January 16

How to Find Your Character's Voice

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Part of the Your Writing Questions Answered Series


Q: I struggle with internalization in first person POV. I've read your internalization 101 post. Maybe it's that I don't know my character well enough to get a feel for how she would describe what she sees, feels, hears etc. I don't feel like I'm quite there with her voice and I think big part of it comes down to her thoughts (or lack thereof).

A: I’m going to answer this question in two parts (my answer on voice got quite long). Today I'll talk about developing a character's voice, and next week, I’ll look specifically at writing first person internalization and how it differs from third person.

Sunday, January 15

Writing Prompt: The Challenge: A Different Perspective

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt challenges you to write something outside of your comfort zone. It’s designed to push your creative boundaries and stretch those artistic wings.

This week’s challenge:

Take an existing scene from your novel and rewrite it using another character in the scene as the protagonist and point of view.


The goal here is to consider how the scene might change with someone else driving it. How might the goal change? The stakes? The voice? If nothing at all changes but the names, that’s a red flag that your characters aren’t fully realized yet, and nothing they’re doing is personal or unique to them. Even if the goal stays the same, how that new POV character approaches that goal should be different.

Saturday, January 14

Real Life Diagnostics: Are the Stakes Clear in This Opening?

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: Three 


Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through February 4.

This week’s question:

Are the stakes clear in this opening?


Market/Genre: YA Contemporary

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, January 13

Planting the Clues and Hints in Your Story


By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s Refresher Friday takes an updated look at blazing the trail of clues in our novels. Enjoy!

We’ve all read stories where clues were so seamlessly dropped in along the way that until the big secret was revealed, we never even realized they were there. But when we finally did, all the pieces of the story fell into place and we were awed by the skill in which that trail had been created. Those writers made it look easy, as if they knew from page one what clue went where and how it would all come together in the end.

I’m sure there are writers out that who really do write that way, but for many of us, those clues are either planned ahead of time, inserted after the fact, or happy accidents. Sometimes (heck, probably most times), a combination of all three.

Thursday, January 12

Creating a Print Book Box Set

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series


The last two months we’ve looked at why we might want to create a box set of our books and how to create a single-author ebook box set. This month I wanted to look at one of the most challenging questions for indie authors when it comes to box sets: Is there a way to create a print book box set for our books?

The short answer is yes. Whether or not we’ll feel the options are workable for us, though, requires examining them carefully.

Wednesday, January 11

Choosing What to Put in Your Outline (and Your Plot)

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Part of the Your Writing Questions Answered Series


Q: This feels like a silly question, but I struggle with the...deciding part of outlining? I'm overwhelmed with infinite possibilities, yet each one I come up with doesn't fit what I already have.

For example, I've been trying to come up with a major clue that this character can discover to move him close to solving a mystery, and I'm trying to come up with one that isn't so obvious that it reveals the culprit in the middle of the story, but also fits how the murder actually took place. So maybe I need to add some complexity to this murder so there are more interesting layers to go through. However, if I do that, then I need to rethink or get rid of even more plot elements related to my original version of the murder, or I need to find a way to give the murder more complexity without changing the already existing elements.

It seems like every other writer manages to work through this stuff naturally, but I always end up beating my head against a wall.


Tuesday, January 10

The Actual Timeline of a Book and Why It Matters

By Scott Reintgen, @Scott_Thought

Part of the How They Do It Series


Vampires. Are. So. Hot. Right. Now.

… is what everyone said back when Twilight came rocking into the literary world in 2005. And vampires were hot. In the literary and physical sense. Stephanie Meyer’s success, along with many other authors, attested to just how important timing can be in the world of books. It’s very likely that thousands of authors followed on Stephanie Meyer’s heels, only to find the vampire door closing in slow-motion as they ran towards it.

Traditional publishing isn’t winning the 100-meter dash. It is not Usain Bolt. Frankly, it’s not trying to be. So it’s good to know what’s in store if that’s the direction your heading. Here—from start to finish—is the timeline for the book that got me my first publishing deal:

Monday, January 9

What a First Draft Should Look Like

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Part of the Your Writing Questions Answered Series


Q: As a new writer, I always have the worst time writing first drafts. I keep expecting to write a finished product in one go, then I change the story by chapter three, and I never manage to finish the story I started. I get disheartened when I go back and read the sloppy, plothole-filled mess. Any suggestions?

A: First thing, don’t be so hard on yourself. First drafts are usually sloppy, plothole-filled messes, and nobody gets them perfect the first time (unless they have decades of experience as an author, and even then it’s rare). As the saying goes, writing is rewriting, and most of the real work on a novel is done after the first draft.

Sunday, January 8

Writing Prompt: The Story Starter: Clowning Around

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a story starter, so take the element provided and turn it into a story of any length you choose. If you’re stuck on size, I suggest aiming for 1000-2000 words. This week, let’s start with an opening sentence.

It was a lousy place for a clown.


Take this opening line and run with it. See where it takes you.

Saturday, January 7

Real Life Diagnostics: Does This Opening Make Sense?

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: Four 


Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through February 4.

This week’s question:

Below is the opening of the third novel of the Matryoschka Heritage linked novels (not a series). In the first novel, Alex and Sarah Beth get unwisely caught up in a battle between a less-than-competent secret government research agency and a transnational group that’s over 500 years old. Alex dies. End of book one. In the second novel, Sarah Beth, despite ‘interventions’ by Alex’s wife, Antonia, the government agency, all their friends, and everyone else, searches for the way to bring him back. Sarah Beth dies in her success. Alex lives, again. End of book two.

Does this opening work as a relatively coherent introduction to the situation, and the complexities Alex now faces? 


Market/Genre: Science Fiction

On to the diagnosis…