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

Saturday, May 25

Real Life Diagnostics: Would You Keep Reading This Middle Grade Mystery?

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 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 Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines. 

Submissions currently in the queue: Two

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through June 8.

This week’s question:

Is this opening working?

Market/Genre: Middle Grade Mystery

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, May 24

5 Ways to Hook Your Readers

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday takes an updated look at ways to hook your readers and keep them reading. Enjoy!

"You need a strong hook" is advice you hear a lot of in writing, and it's good advice. A strong hook pulls readers into the story and makes them want to read on.

A hook is something that captures reader attention and piques interest in the novel. It can also be the gotcha or twist that makes the novel compelling and fresh, intriguing readers even further. It’s the “ooooh” factor that probably got you excited about the idea in the first place. It might be a plot point, a character goal, or a conflict. It could even be the theme.

In harsh terms, the hook is why a reader (or agent) should care about your book and not pick up someone else’s. Readers choose a novel because one book will stand out and sound more appealing than another—one “hooks” more than the other.

Thursday, May 23

The Guilty Pleasures of Procrastination

By Dario Ciriello

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Writers procrastinate—especially when the writing isn’t flowing. Although we don’t get a lot of word written n those days, the little breaks can be useful. Dario Ciriello is back this month with tips on making the most of your procrastination.


When it comes to procrastination, nobody beats a writer.

There’s a popular saying that nobody’s house is cleaner than that of a writer on a deadline. Cleaning is indeed one strategy, if you enjoy that sort of thing. But the ways to stave off actual writing are limited only by the writer’s imagination.

In truth, writers are enormously creative when it comes to finding displacement activities. The late, great Douglas Adams was known for taking endless baths as his agent fretted and tried to talk him into delivering a manuscript. “I love deadlines,” said Adams, “I love the whooshing sound they make as they go past.”

Tuesday, May 21

Pacing, Line by Line

By Chris Eboch

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Finding the right pace is key to writing a story that keeps readers hooked. Please help me welcome Chris Eboch back to the lecture hall today, to share tips on pacing.


Chris Eboch is the author of Advanced Plotting and You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. She has written over 60 published books for children. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt, and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure. Learn more at her webpage or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Kris Bock novels are action-packed romantic adventures set in Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk's Treasure, “Smart romance with an 'Indiana Jones' feel,” is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars with 50 reviews. The stories explore the Southwest, especially New Mexico. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit Kris’s Amazon page.

Take it away Chris…

Sunday, May 19

Sunday Writing Tip: Make Sure Your Characters Have Their Own Voices

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check the voices of your main characters and make sure they all have unique voices


If you can hand lines of dialogue to another character and they read just fine no matter who says them, the characters might not be individuals yet—or their dialogue isn’t reflecting that individuality. While not every single line has to sound different, each character ought to have traits unique to them and voice that shows who they are.

Saturday, May 18

Real Life Diagnostics: Would You Keep Reading This Space Opera Opening?

Critique By Maria D'Marco

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 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 Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines

Submissions currently in the queue: Two

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through June 8.

This week’s questions:

1. Is there enough tension? I tried to keep it subtle, and use subtext, but maybe it’s too subtle?

2. Is there too much explanation? Not enough? These two were major characters in Book 1, but if people go a long time in between reading the books do they need more reminders?

3. Do you sense Tynan has a strong motivation, even if it isn't stated?

4. Is there a hook?

5. Would you keep reading?

Market/Genre: Space Opera/Galactic Empire

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, May 17

5 Tips for Writing with Small Children

By Bethany Henry

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Finding time to write can be difficult for any writer, but it’s even more challenging when you have other people needing your attention. Bethany Henry takes the podium today to share tips on writing with small children.


Bethany Henry firmly believes in eating ice cream throughout all four of New England’s seasons and that daily naps should be mandatory. She’s been writing and studying storycraft for years, generally gravitating toward YA fantasy, and runs a writing and lifestyle blog at bethany-henry.com.

When not writing, Bethany can be found dancing in her kitchen, playing ultimate frisbee, or chasing after her two little girls.

Bethany’s current novel in progress, Tiger and Jade, is inspired by her time working in Macau and traveling throughout Asia. Sign up for her email list to hear more.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Pinterest

Take it away Bethany…

Thursday, May 16

Journal to Boost Productivity

By Rochelle Melander, @WriteNowCoach

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: There are many ways to jump start the creative process, and writing coach Rochelle Melander visits the lecture hall today to share one of them—journaling.


Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach, experienced book strategist, and the author of eleven books, including, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. She provides solutions for people who feel stuck, overwhelmed or confused by the writing and publishing process. She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop that supports children and teens in finding their voice and sharing their stories.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Rochelle…

Tuesday, May 14

What Every Writer Should Know About Theme

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

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

JH: Theme is a useful tool to deepen a novel, but it's often misunderstood. Luckily, Laurence MacNaughton is back this month with a fantastic look at how easy it is to find your theme.  

Theme seems to be one of those angst-triggering bogeymen that writers constantly wrestle with. But when you examine it closely, there's really nothing complicated about it. Theme is simply the lesson the main character learns over the course of the story.

(Or, in the case of a tragic ending, the lesson they failed to learn.)

Every story, from the silliest comedy to the deepest work of literature, delivers a moral message on some level. It basically says “life is like this.”

Think about some of the most famous movie quotes of all time:

Sunday, May 12

Sunday Writing Tip: Fix Incorrect I versus Me Issues

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, search for I and me and fix any incorrect usages


There’s a bit of a misconception that it should always be “Bob and I…” when choosing between I and me, but that’s not true. There are plenty of instances when me is correct.

An easy test to determine if you need I or me: Reduce the sentence to just the I part. For example:

Bob and I went to the store = I went to the store. I is the correct usage, as Me went to the store is clearly wrong.

Meet Bob and I at the store = Meet I at the store. Me would be the correct usage here, with meet me at the store.