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Wednesday, February 20

Act One: All Setup or Does it Need More?

novel openings, structure
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

How much goes into setting up the beginning of a novel?

Novel beginnings don’t make it easy on us poor writers. We have to introduce characters, set the scene, ground readers in a new world (real life or make believe), and we have to do something compelling to entice those readers to keep reading.

Story structure helps with this, giving us a proven path to take after that first sentence is written: Opening scene leads to inciting event leads to end of act one. That encompasses the beginning, and act one is essentially the part of the novel where the story is set up. Introduce the protagonist, put them on the plot path, and turn them loose to resolve the story’s conflict.

And that’s where the trouble starts for some writers.

They have the opening scene down pat. They know what the inciting event is. But after that it gets fuzzy, and they wonder…

Tuesday, February 19

How to Write a Real Page-Turner

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of the How They Do It Series


JH: No matter what they write, I think every writer hopes for a book readers can’t put down. Please help me welcome Laurisa White Reyes to the lecture hall today, to share some tips on how to create a page-turner.


Laurisa White Reyes is the Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press & Author Services. She has published sixteen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing and the SCBWI Spark Award winner The Storytellers. Laurisa also provides personal coaching for writers. To connect with her, visit Skyrocket Press.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |

Take it away Laurisa…

Monday, February 18

Goals-Motivations-Conflicts: The Engine That Keeps a Story Running

GMC, plotting, scenes
By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Without a strong GMC, your story engine can stall.


With “What’s your story about?” being a common question for writers, it’s easy to think about our stories as being one conflict or idea. We pose a problem, and then the book is spent trying to solve that problem. We postulate an idea, and we go on to explore that idea. We introduce a character, and we live in that character’s life for a while.

While stories might be about one problem, the plot is actually made up of many pieces all building on each other toward a resolution. Just like words form sentences, sentences form paragraphs, and paragraphs form pages, which is turn create scenes that form chapters and chapters that form acts. Everything builds to create a larger construct.

At the end of it all, is a novel (or short story if you prefer).

Sunday, February 17

Sunday Writing Tip: Examine Your Filter Words

filter words, show don't tell, telling
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, eliminate or revise any filter words that aren’t working


Filter words are words that put an extra layer between the POV character and the reader, such as thought, knew, realized, felt, smelled, heard, etc. They’re a form of telling, and can distance readers from the story. The narrative distance determines how told a filter word feels. A close narrative distance, such as first person, feels very told if a lot of filter words are used, where an distant omniscient narrator isn’t as affected by them, because the entire story is filtered through an outside narrator.

Saturday, February 16

Real Life Diagnostics: Putting Subtext Into a Scene

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: Zero

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

This week’s questions:

1. Can you detect any subtext from Christian's side―that he's interested in Willow, or is it too subtle. OR, is subtle just right for the start of the story. I find the romance genre the most difficult to write, fearing I'll come across as cheesy or too cliché.

2. Anything else I need to drum up or tone down?

Market/Genre: Short story

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, February 15

Three Ways One Stop for Writers’ Character Builder Tool Will Help Writers

creating characters
By Angela Ackerman, @AngelaAckerman

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Writers are almost always looking for useful tools to help them develop their stories, and today, Angela Ackerman visits the lecture hall to share her new character-building tool. Please give her a warm welcome.


Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression (now a expanded 2nd edition) as well as six others. Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Take it away Angela…

Thursday, February 14

Publishing Far and Wide to Sharpen Your Skills, Thicken Your Skin

By Alythia Brown

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Being a writer encompasses many forms, and not all of them include fiction. Please welcome Alythia Brown back to the lecture hall to share her story about how a wider career path improved her writing--and saved her sanity. 


Alythia Brown, repped by BookEnds LLC., is the author of an indie press book you’ve never ever heard of and she wouldn’t even want you to read now. In collaboration with her group of beta readers, she will soon launch ebooks through www.betabaybooks.com. Her skills include naming the neighborhood cats and drawing doodles of chickens to help writers remember grammar tricks.


Take it away Alythia...

Wednesday, February 13

An Easy Tip for Getting Unstuck in a Scene

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

When you get stuck on a scene, you might just need a little push to get you started again.

Last week, I got stuck with a scene. It wasn’t writers block, and I knew what I wanted to write, I just couldn’t get started. I kept looking at the scene and the words didn’t want to come, even though I could picture it in my head.

After quite a few false starts and a lot of deleted paragraphs, I stepped back and tried something I’d never done before.

I broke my scene summary down into smaller tasks and wrote them one task at a time.

Simple as this sounds, it gave me a clear situation to write and I was able ignore everything else in the scene until I was ready for it.

Tuesday, February 12

The Six-Figure Master Fiction Plot

writing a novel, plotting, outlining
By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

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

Ever wish you could write a novel in just a matter of weeks . . . and then sell it for good money?

Lester Dent knew how. He wrote his first novel in just 13 days. Over the course of his career, he wrote nearly 200 novel-length stories, mostly for the Doc Savage series. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, he wrote a book nearly every month.

He also crammed the pages of pulp fiction magazines with short stories cranked out under various pen names. During the Great Depression, while legions of writers were starving, he boasted that he made $18,000 a year with his writing. In today's terms, that's more than $250,000 a year.

How did he do it? He used a very specific formula. He called it his “Master Plot.”

Sunday, February 10

Sunday Writing Tip: Get Rid of Your Crutch Words

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, cut or revise your crutch words—those pesky and weak words you tend to overuse.


Crutch words are words or phrases we tend to overuse—our go-to words we can slap down and not think too hard about. You might notice you use a certain dialogue tag, or mannerism a lot, or you always describe something a certain way.

Every writer has their own set of words they use over and over, and it can vary from book to book. For example, mine are just, only, and so, and I’ve had eyes widen and fell into step beside me appear way too much in various books.